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1.  Quantification of Regional DNA Methylation by Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry 
Analytical biochemistry  2009;391(2):106-113.
Promoter hypermethylation associated tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) silencing has been explored as a therapeutic target for hypomethylating agents. Promoter methylation change may serve as a pharmacodynamic endpoint for evaluation of the efficacy of these agents and predict the patient’s clinical response. Herein, a LC-MS/MS assay has been developed for quantitative regional DNA methylation analysis using the molar ratio of 5-methyl-2′-deoxycytidine (5mdC) to 2′-deoxycytidine (2dC) in the enzymatic hydrolysate of fully methylated bisulfite-converted PCR amplicons as the methylation indicator. The assay can differentiate 5% of promoter methylation level with an intra-day precision ranging from 3.00 to 16.0% using two TSGs: HIN-1 and RASSF1A. This method was applied to characterize decitabine-induced promoter DNA methylation changes of these two TSGs in a breast cancer MCF-7 cell line. Promoter methylation of these TSGs was found to decrease in a dose-dependent manner. Correspondingly, the expression of these TSGs was enhanced. The sensitivity and reproducibility of the method make it a valuable tool for specific gene methylation analysis, which could aid characterization of hypomethylating activity on specific genes by hypomethylating agents in a clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC3939067  PMID: 19442645
Regional DNA Methylation; LC-MS/MS; Quantification
2.  Inference of hierarchical regulatory network of estrogen-dependent breast cancer through ChIP-based data 
BMC Systems Biology  2010;4:170.
Global profiling of in vivo protein-DNA interactions using ChIP-based technologies has evolved rapidly in recent years. Although many genome-wide studies have identified thousands of ERα binding sites and have revealed the associated transcription factor (TF) partners, such as AP1, FOXA1 and CEBP, little is known about ERα associated hierarchical transcriptional regulatory networks.
In this study, we applied computational approaches to analyze three public available ChIP-based datasets: ChIP-seq, ChIP-PET and ChIP-chip, and to investigate the hierarchical regulatory network for ERα and ERα partner TFs regulation in estrogen-dependent breast cancer MCF7 cells. 16 common TFs and two common new TF partners (RORA and PITX2) were found among ChIP-seq, ChIP-chip and ChIP-PET datasets. The regulatory networks were constructed by scanning the ChIP-peak region with TF specific position weight matrix (PWM). A permutation test was performed to test the reliability of each connection of the network. We then used DREM software to perform gene ontology function analysis on the common genes. We found that FOS, PITX2, RORA and FOXA1 were involved in the up-regulated genes.
We also conducted the ERα and Pol-II ChIP-seq experiments in tamoxifen resistance MCF7 cells (denoted as MCF7-T in this study) and compared the difference between MCF7 and MCF7-T cells. The result showed very little overlap between these two cells in terms of targeted genes (21.2% of common genes) and targeted TFs (25% of common TFs). The significant dissimilarity may indicate totally different transcriptional regulatory mechanisms between these two cancer cells.
Our study uncovers new estrogen-mediated regulatory networks by mining three ChIP-based data in MCF7 cells and ChIP-seq data in MCF7-T cells. We compared the different ChIP-based technologies as well as different breast cancer cells. Our computational analytical approach may guide biologists to further study the underlying mechanisms in breast cancer cells or other human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3012048  PMID: 21167036
3.  Comparative study on ChIP-seq data: normalization and binding pattern characterization 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(18):2334-2340.
Motivation: Antibody-based Chromatin Immunoprecipitation assay followed by high-throughput sequencing technology (ChIP-seq) is a relatively new method to study the binding patterns of specific protein molecules over the entire genome. ChIP-seq technology allows scientist to get more comprehensive results in shorter time. Here, we present a non-linear normalization algorithm and a mixture modeling method for comparing ChIP-seq data from multiple samples and characterizing genes based on their RNA polymerase II (Pol II) binding patterns.
Results: We apply a two-step non-linear normalization method based on locally weighted regression (LOESS) approach to compare ChIP-seq data across multiple samples and model the difference using an Exponential-NormalK mixture model. Fitted model is used to identify genes associated with differential binding sites based on local false discovery rate (fdr). These genes are then standardized and hierarchically clustered to characterize their Pol II binding patterns. As a case study, we apply the analysis procedure comparing normal breast cancer (MCF7) to tamoxifen-resistant (OHT) cell line. We find enriched regions that are associated with cancer (P < 0.0001). Our findings also imply that there may be a dysregulation of cell cycle and gene expression control pathways in the tamoxifen-resistant cells. These results show that the non-linear normalization method can be used to analyze ChIP-seq data across multiple samples.
Availability: Data are available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2800347  PMID: 19561022
4.  Genome-wide mapping of RNA Pol-II promoter usage in mouse tissues by ChIP-seq 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(1):190-201.
Alternative promoters that are differentially used in various cellular contexts and tissue types add to the transcriptional complexity in mammalian genome. Identification of alternative promoters and the annotation of their activity in different tissues is one of the major challenges in understanding the transcriptional regulation of the mammalian genes and their isoforms. To determine the use of alternative promoters in different tissues, we performed ChIP-seq experiments using antibody against RNA Pol-II, in five adult mouse tissues (brain, liver, lung, spleen and kidney). Our analysis identified 38 639 Pol-II promoters, including 12 270 novel promoters, for both protein coding and non-coding mouse genes. Of these, 6384 promoters are tissue specific which are CpG poor and we find that only 34% of the novel promoters are located in CpG-rich regions, suggesting that novel promoters are mostly tissue specific. By identifying the Pol-II bound promoter(s) of each annotated gene in a given tissue, we found that 37% of the protein coding genes use alternative promoters in the five mouse tissues. The promoter annotations and ChIP-seq data presented here will aid ongoing efforts of characterizing gene regulatory regions in mammalian genomes.
PMCID: PMC3017616  PMID: 20843783
5.  A Poisson mixture model to identify changes in RNA polymerase II binding quantity using high-throughput sequencing technology 
BMC Genomics  2008;9(Suppl 2):S23.
We present a mixture model-based analysis for identifying differences in the distribution of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) in transcribed regions, measured using ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation following massively parallel sequencing technology). The statistical model assumes that the number of Pol II-targeted sequences contained within each genomic region follows a Poisson distribution. A Poisson mixture model was then developed to distinguish Pol II binding changes in transcribed region using an empirical approach and an expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm developed for estimation and inference. In order to achieve a global maximum in the M-step, a particle swarm optimization (PSO) was implemented. We applied this model to Pol II binding data generated from hormone-dependent MCF7 breast cancer cells and antiestrogen-resistant MCF7 breast cancer cells before and after treatment with 17β-estradiol (E2). We determined that in the hormone-dependent cells, ~9.9% (2527) genes showed significant changes in Pol II binding after E2 treatment. However, only ~0.7% (172) genes displayed significant Pol II binding changes in E2-treated antiestrogen-resistant cells. These results show that a Poisson mixture model can be used to analyze ChIP-seq data.
PMCID: PMC2559888  PMID: 18831789
6.  Genome-wide analysis of alternative promoters of human genes using a custom promoter tiling array 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:349.
Independent lines of evidence suggested that a large fraction of human genes possess multiple promoters driving gene expression from distinct transcription start sites. Understanding which promoter is employed in which cellular context is required to unravel gene regulatory networks within the cell.
We have developed a custom microarray platform that tiles roughly 35,000 alternative putative promoters from nearly 7,000 genes in the human genome. To demonstrate the utility of this array platform, we have analyzed the patterns of promoter usage in 17β-estradiol (E2)-treated and untreated MCF7 cells and show widespread usage of alternative promoters. Most intriguingly, we show that the downstream promoter in E2-sensitive multiple promoter genes tends to be very close to the 3'-terminus of the gene, suggesting exotic mechanisms of expression regulation in these genes.
The usage of alternative promoters greatly multiplies the transcriptional complexity available within the human genome. The fact that many of these promoters are incapable of driving the synthesis of a meaningful protein-encoding transcript further complicates the story.
PMCID: PMC2527337  PMID: 18655706
7.  Diverse histone modifications on histone 3 lysine 9 and their relation to DNA methylation in specifying gene silencing 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:131.
Previous studies of individual genes have shown that in a self-enforcing way, dimethylation at histone 3 lysine 9 (dimethyl-H3K9) and DNA methylation cooperate to maintain a repressive mode of inactive genes. Less clear is whether this cooperation is generalized in mammalian genomes, such as mouse genome. Here we use epigenomic tools to simultaneously interrogate chromatin modifications and DNA methylation in a mouse leukemia cell line, L1210.
Histone modifications on H3K9 and DNA methylation in L1210 were profiled by both global CpG island array and custom mouse promoter array analysis. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation microarray (ChIP-chip) to examine acetyl-H3K9 and dimethyl-H3K9. We found that the relative level of acetyl-H3K9 at different chromatin positions has a wider range of distribution than that of dimethyl-H3K9. We then used differential methylation hybridization (DMH) and the restriction landmark genome scanning (RLGS) to analyze the DNA methylation status of the same targets investigated by ChIP-chip. The results of epigenomic profiling, which have been independently confirmed for individual loci, show an inverse relationship between DNA methylation and histone acetylation in regulating gene silencing. In contrast to the previous notion, dimethyl-H3K9 seems to be less distinct in specifying silencing for the genes tested.
This study demonstrates in L1210 leukemia cells a diverse relationship between histone modifications and DNA methylation in the maintenance of gene silencing. Acetyl-H3K9 shows an inverse relationship between DNA methylation and histone acetylation in regulating gene silencing as expected. However, dimethyl-H3K9 seems to be less distinct in relation to promoter methylation. Meanwhile, a combination of epigenomic tools is of help in understanding the heterogeneity of epigenetic regulation, which may further our vision accumulated from single-gene studies.
PMCID: PMC1888705  PMID: 17524140

Results 1-7 (7)