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2.  Quantitative Genetics of CTCF Binding Reveal Local Sequence Effects and Different Modes of X-Chromosome Association 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(11):e1004798.
Associating genetic variation with quantitative measures of gene regulation offers a way to bridge the gap between genotype and complex phenotypes. In order to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that influence the binding of a transcription factor in humans, we measured binding of the multifunctional transcription and chromatin factor CTCF in 51 HapMap cell lines. We identified thousands of QTLs in which genotype differences were associated with differences in CTCF binding strength, hundreds of them confirmed by directly observable allele-specific binding bias. The majority of QTLs were either within 1 kb of the CTCF binding motif, or in linkage disequilibrium with a variant within 1 kb of the motif. On the X chromosome we observed three classes of binding sites: a minority class bound only to the active copy of the X chromosome, the majority class bound to both the active and inactive X, and a small set of female-specific CTCF sites associated with two non-coding RNA genes. In sum, our data reveal extensive genetic effects on CTCF binding, both direct and indirect, and identify a diversity of patterns of CTCF binding on the X chromosome.
Author Summary
We have systematically measured the effect of normal genetic variation present in a human population on the binding of a specific chromatin protein (CTCF) to DNA by measuring its binding in 51 human cell lines. We observed a large number of changes in protein binding that we can confidently attribute to genetic effects. The corresponding genetic changes are often clustered around the binding motif for CTCF, but only a minority are actually within the motif. Unexpectedly, we also find that at most binding sites on the X chromosome, CTCF binding occurs equally on both the X chromosomes in females at the same level as on the single X chromosome in males. This finding suggests that in general, CTCF binding is not subject to global dosage compensation, the process which equalizes gene expression levels from the two female X chromosomes and the single male X.
PMCID: PMC4238955  PMID: 25411781
3.  Ensembl 2015 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D662-D669.
Ensembl ( is a genomic interpretation system providing the most up-to-date annotations, querying tools and access methods for chordates and key model organisms. This year we released updated annotation (gene models, comparative genomics, regulatory regions and variation) on the new human assembly, GRCh38, although we continue to support researchers using the GRCh37.p13 assembly through a dedicated site ( Our Regulatory Build has been revamped to identify regulatory regions of interest and to efficiently highlight their activity across disparate epigenetic data sets. A number of new interfaces allow users to perform large-scale comparisons of their data against our annotations. The REST server (, which allows programs written in any language to query our databases, has moved to a full service alongside our upgraded website tools. Our online Variant Effect Predictor tool has been updated to process more variants and calculate summary statistics. Lastly, the WiggleTools package enables users to summarize large collections of data sets and view them as single tracks in Ensembl. The Ensembl code base itself is more accessible: it is now hosted on our GitHub organization page ( under an Apache 2.0 open source license.
PMCID: PMC4383879  PMID: 25352552
4.  Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies new susceptibility loci for migraine 
Anttila, Verneri | Winsvold, Bendik S. | Gormley, Padhraig | Kurth, Tobias | Bettella, Francesco | McMahon, George | Kallela, Mikko | Malik, Rainer | de Vries, Boukje | Terwindt, Gisela | Medland, Sarah E. | Todt, Unda | McArdle, Wendy L. | Quaye, Lydia | Koiranen, Markku | Ikram, M. Arfan | Lehtimäki, Terho | Stam, Anine H. | Ligthart, Lannie | Wedenoja, Juho | Dunham, Ian | Neale, Benjamin M. | Palta, Priit | Hamalainen, Eija | Schürks, Markus | Rose, Lynda M | Buring, Julie E. | Ridker, Paul M. | Steinberg, Stacy | Stefansson, Hreinn | Jakobsson, Finnbogi | Lawlor, Debbie A. | Evans, David M. | Ring, Susan M. | Färkkilä, Markus | Artto, Ville | Kaunisto, Mari A | Freilinger, Tobias | Schoenen, Jean | Frants, Rune R. | Pelzer, Nadine | Weller, Claudia M. | Zielman, Ronald | Heath, Andrew C. | Madden, Pamela A.F. | Montgomery, Grant W. | Martin, Nicholas G. | Borck, Guntram | Göbel, Hartmut | Heinze, Axel | Heinze-Kuhn, Katja | Williams, Frances M.K. | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Pouta, Anneli | van den Ende, Joyce | Uitterlinden, Andre G. | Hofman, Albert | Amin, Najaf | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Vink, Jacqueline M. | Heikkilä, Kauko | Alexander, Michael | Muller-Myhsok, Bertram | Schreiber, Stefan | Meitinger, Thomas | Wichmann, Heinz Erich | Aromaa, Arpo | Eriksson, Johan G. | Traynor, Bryan | Trabzuni, Daniah | Rossin, Elizabeth | Lage, Kasper | Jacobs, Suzanne B.R. | Gibbs, J. Raphael | Birney, Ewan | Kaprio, Jaakko | Penninx, Brenda W. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | van Duijn, Cornelia | Raitakari, Olli | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Zwart, John-Anker | Cherkas, Lynn | Strachan, David P. | Kubisch, Christian | Ferrari, Michel D. | van den Maagdenberg, Arn M.J.M. | Dichgans, Martin | Wessman, Maija | Smith, George Davey | Stefansson, Kari | Daly, Mark J. | Nyholt, Dale R. | Chasman, Daniel | Palotie, Aarno
Nature genetics  2013;45(8):912-917.
PMCID: PMC4041123  PMID: 23793025
5.  The EBI RDF platform: linked open data for the life sciences 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(9):1338-1339.
Motivation: Resource description framework (RDF) is an emerging technology for describing, publishing and linking life science data. As a major provider of bioinformatics data and services, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is committed to making data readily accessible to the community in ways that meet existing demand. The EBI RDF platform has been developed to meet an increasing demand to coordinate RDF activities across the institute and provides a new entry point to querying and exploring integrated resources available at the EBI.
PMCID: PMC3998127  PMID: 24413672
6.  Genomic and Phenotypic Characterization of a Wild Medaka Population: Towards the Establishment of an Isogenic Population Genetic Resource in Fish 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2014;4(3):433-445.
Oryzias latipes (medaka) has been established as a vertebrate genetic model for more than a century and recently has been rediscovered outside its native Japan. The power of new sequencing methods now makes it possible to reinvigorate medaka genetics, in particular by establishing a near-isogenic panel derived from a single wild population. Here we characterize the genomes of wild medaka catches obtained from a single Southern Japanese population in Kiyosu as a precursor for the establishment of a near-isogenic panel of wild lines. The population is free of significant detrimental population structure and has advantageous linkage disequilibrium properties suitable for the establishment of the proposed panel. Analysis of morphometric traits in five representative inbred strains suggests phenotypic mapping will be feasible in the panel. In addition, high-throughput genome sequencing of these medaka strains confirms their evolutionary relationships on lines of geographic separation and provides further evidence that there has been little significant interbreeding between the Southern and Northern medaka population since the Southern/Northern population split. The sequence data suggest that the Southern Japanese medaka existed as a larger older population that went through a relatively recent bottleneck approximately 10,000 years ago. In addition, we detect patterns of recent positive selection in the Southern population. These data indicate that the genetic structure of the Kiyosu medaka samples is suitable for the establishment of a vertebrate near-isogenic panel and therefore inbreeding of 200 lines based on this population has commenced. Progress of this project can be tracked at
PMCID: PMC3962483  PMID: 24408034
Medaka; inbreeding; population genomics; strain specific features
7.  Ensembl 2014 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D749-D755.
Ensembl ( creates tools and data resources to facilitate genomic analysis in chordate species with an emphasis on human, major vertebrate model organisms and farm animals. Over the past year we have increased the number of species that we support to 77 and expanded our genome browser with a new scrollable overview and improved variation and phenotype views. We also report updates to our core datasets and improvements to our gene homology relationships from the addition of new species. Our REST service has been extended with additional support for comparative genomics and ontology information. Finally, we provide updated information about our methods for data access and resources for user training.
PMCID: PMC3964975  PMID: 24316576
8.  The European Bioinformatics Institute’s data resources 2014 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D18-D25.
Molecular Biology has been at the heart of the ‘big data’ revolution from its very beginning, and the need for access to biological data is a common thread running from the 1965 publication of Dayhoff’s ‘Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure’ through the Human Genome Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s to today’s population-scale sequencing initiatives. The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI; is one of three organizations worldwide that provides free access to comprehensive, integrated molecular data sets. Here, we summarize the principles underpinning the development of these public resources and provide an overview of EMBL-EBI’s database collection to complement the reviews of individual databases provided elsewhere in this issue.
PMCID: PMC3964968  PMID: 24271396
9.  The Reactome pathway knowledgebase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D472-D477.
Reactome ( is a manually curated open-source open-data resource of human pathways and reactions. The current version 46 describes 7088 human proteins (34% of the predicted human proteome), participating in 6744 reactions based on data extracted from 15 107 research publications with PubMed links. The Reactome Web site and analysis tool set have been completely redesigned to increase speed, flexibility and user friendliness. The data model has been extended to support annotation of disease processes due to infectious agents and to mutation.
PMCID: PMC3965010  PMID: 24243840
10.  Toward practical high-capacity low-maintenance storage of digital information in synthesised DNA 
Nature  2013;494(7435):77-80.
The shift to digital systems for the creation, transmission and storage of information has led to increasing complexity in archiving, requiring active, ongoing maintenance of the digital media. DNA is an attractive target for information storage1 because of its capacity for high density information encoding, longevity under easily-achieved conditions2–4 and proven track record as an information bearer. Previous DNA-based information storage approaches have encoded only trivial amounts of information5–7 or were not amenable to scaling-up8, and used no robust error-correction and lacked examination of their cost-efficiency for large-scale information archival9. Here we describe a scalable method that can reliably store more information than has been handled before. We encoded computer files totalling 739 kB of hard disk storage and with an estimated Shannon information10 of 5.2 × 106 bits into a DNA code, synthesised this DNA, sequenced it and reconstructed the original files with 100% accuracy. Theoretical analysis indicates that our DNA-storage scheme scales far beyond current global information volumes. These results demonstrate DNA-storage to be a realistic technology for large-scale digital archiving that may already be cost-effective for low access, multi-century-long archiving tasks. Within a decade, as costs fall rapidly under realistic scenarios for technological advances, it may be cost-effective for sub-50-year archival.
PMCID: PMC3672958  PMID: 23354052
11.  Highly conserved elements discovered in vertebrates are present in non-syntenic loci of tunicates, act as enhancers and can be transcribed during development 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(6):3600-3618.
Co-option of cis-regulatory modules has been suggested as a mechanism for the evolution of expression sites during development. However, the extent and mechanisms involved in mobilization of cis-regulatory modules remains elusive. To trace the history of non-coding elements, which may represent candidate ancestral cis-regulatory modules affirmed during chordate evolution, we have searched for conserved elements in tunicate and vertebrate (Olfactores) genomes. We identified, for the first time, 183 non-coding sequences that are highly conserved between the two groups. Our results show that all but one element are conserved in non-syntenic regions between vertebrate and tunicate genomes, while being syntenic among vertebrates. Nevertheless, in all the groups, they are significantly associated with transcription factors showing specific functions fundamental to animal development, such as multicellular organism development and sequence-specific DNA binding. The majority of these regions map onto ultraconserved elements and we demonstrate that they can act as functional enhancers within the organism of origin, as well as in cross-transgenesis experiments, and that they are transcribed in extant species of Olfactores. We refer to the elements as ‘Olfactores conserved non-coding elements’.
PMCID: PMC3616699  PMID: 23393190
12.  Integrative annotation of chromatin elements from ENCODE data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(2):827-841.
The ENCODE Project has generated a wealth of experimental information mapping diverse chromatin properties in several human cell lines. Although each such data track is independently informative toward the annotation of regulatory elements, their interrelations contain much richer information for the systematic annotation of regulatory elements. To uncover these interrelations and to generate an interpretable summary of the massive datasets of the ENCODE Project, we apply unsupervised learning methodologies, converting dozens of chromatin datasets into discrete annotation maps of regulatory regions and other chromatin elements across the human genome. These methods rediscover and summarize diverse aspects of chromatin architecture, elucidate the interplay between chromatin activity and RNA transcription, and reveal that a large proportion of the genome lies in a quiescent state, even across multiple cell types. The resulting annotation of non-coding regulatory elements correlate strongly with mammalian evolutionary constraint, and provide an unbiased approach for evaluating metrics of evolutionary constraint in human. Lastly, we use the regulatory annotations to revisit previously uncharacterized disease-associated loci, resulting in focused, testable hypotheses through the lens of the chromatin landscape.
PMCID: PMC3553955  PMID: 23221638
13.  Ensembl 2013 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D48-D55.
The Ensembl project ( provides genome information for sequenced chordate genomes with a particular focus on human, mouse, zebrafish and rat. Our resources include evidenced-based gene sets for all supported species; large-scale whole genome multiple species alignments across vertebrates and clade-specific alignments for eutherian mammals, primates, birds and fish; variation data resources for 17 species and regulation annotations based on ENCODE and other data sets. Ensembl data are accessible through the genome browser at and through other tools and programmatic interfaces.
PMCID: PMC3531136  PMID: 23203987
14. a Wiki-based database for transcription factor-binding data generated by the ENCODE consortium 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D171-D176.
The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) consortium aims to identify all functional elements in the human genome including transcripts, transcriptional regulatory regions, along with their chromatin states and DNA methylation patterns. The ENCODE project generates data utilizing a variety of techniques that can enrich for regulatory regions, such as chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), micrococcal nuclease (MNase) digestion and DNase I digestion, followed by deeply sequencing the resulting DNA. As part of the ENCODE project, we have developed a Web-accessible repository accessible at In Wiki format, factorbook is a transcription factor (TF)-centric repository of all ENCODE ChIP-seq datasets on TF-binding regions, as well as the rich analysis results of these data. In the first release, factorbook contains 457 ChIP-seq datasets on 119 TFs in a number of human cell lines, the average profiles of histone modifications and nucleosome positioning around the TF-binding regions, sequence motifs enriched in the regions and the distance and orientation preferences between motif sites.
PMCID: PMC3531197  PMID: 23203885
15.  The genomic basis of adaptive evolution in threespine sticklebacks 
Nature  2012;484(7392):55-61.
Marine stickleback fish have colonized and adapted to innumerable streams and lakes formed since the last ice age, providing an exceptional opportunity to characterize genomic mechanisms underlying repeated ecological adaptation in nature. Here we develop a high quality reference genome assembly for threespine sticklebacks. By sequencing the genomes of 20 additional individuals from a global set of marine and freshwater populations, we identify a genome-wide set of loci that are consistently associated with marine-freshwater divergence. Our results suggest that reuse of globally-shared standing genetic variation, including chromosomal inversions, plays an important role in repeated evolution of distinct marine and freshwater sticklebacks, and in the maintenance of divergent ecotypes during early stages of reproductive isolation. Both coding and regulatory changes occur in the set of loci underlying marine-freshwater evolution, with regulatory changes likely predominating in this classic example of repeated adaptive evolution in nature.
PMCID: PMC3322419  PMID: 22481358
16.  Classification of human genomic regions based on experimentally determined binding sites of more than 100 transcription-related factors 
Genome Biology  2012;13(9):R48.
Transcription factors function by binding different classes of regulatory elements. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has recently produced binding data for more than 100 transcription factors from about 500 ChIP-seq experiments in multiple cell types. While this large amount of data creates a valuable resource, it is nonetheless overwhelmingly complex and simultaneously incomplete since it covers only a small fraction of all human transcription factors.
As part of the consortium effort in providing a concise abstraction of the data for facilitating various types of downstream analyses, we constructed statistical models that capture the genomic features of three paired types of regions by machine-learning methods: firstly, regions with active or inactive binding; secondly, those with extremely high or low degrees of co-binding, termed HOT and LOT regions; and finally, regulatory modules proximal or distal to genes. From the distal regulatory modules, we developed computational pipelines to identify potential enhancers, many of which were validated experimentally. We further associated the predicted enhancers with potential target transcripts and the transcription factors involved. For HOT regions, we found a significant fraction of transcription factor binding without clear sequence motifs and showed that this observation could be related to strong DNA accessibility of these regions.
Overall, the three pairs of regions exhibit intricate differences in chromosomal locations, chromatin features, factors that bind them, and cell-type specificity. Our machine learning approach enables us to identify features potentially general to all transcription factors, including those not included in the data.
PMCID: PMC3491392  PMID: 22950945
17.  Analysis of variation at transcription factor binding sites in Drosophila and humans 
Genome Biology  2012;13(9):R49.
Advances in sequencing technology have boosted population genomics and made it possible to map the positions of transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) with high precision. Here we investigate TFBS variability by combining transcription factor binding maps generated by ENCODE, modENCODE, our previously published data and other sources with genomic variation data for human individuals and Drosophila isogenic lines.
We introduce a metric of TFBS variability that takes into account changes in motif match associated with mutation and makes it possible to investigate TFBS functional constraints instance-by-instance as well as in sets that share common biological properties. We also take advantage of the emerging per-individual transcription factor binding data to show evidence that TFBS mutations, particularly at evolutionarily conserved sites, can be efficiently buffered to ensure coherent levels of transcription factor binding.
Our analyses provide insights into the relationship between individual and interspecies variation and show evidence for the functional buffering of TFBS mutations in both humans and flies. In a broad perspective, these results demonstrate the potential of combining functional genomics and population genetics approaches for understanding gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3491393  PMID: 22950968
18.  Modeling gene expression using chromatin features in various cellular contexts 
Genome Biology  2012;13(9):R53.
Previous work has demonstrated that chromatin feature levels correlate with gene expression. The ENCODE project enables us to further explore this relationship using an unprecedented volume of data. Expression levels from more than 100,000 promoters were measured using a variety of high-throughput techniques applied to RNA extracted by different protocols from different cellular compartments of several human cell lines. ENCODE also generated the genome-wide mapping of eleven histone marks, one histone variant, and DNase I hypersensitivity sites in seven cell lines.
We built a novel quantitative model to study the relationship between chromatin features and expression levels. Our study not only confirms that the general relationships found in previous studies hold across various cell lines, but also makes new suggestions about the relationship between chromatin features and gene expression levels. We found that expression status and expression levels can be predicted by different groups of chromatin features, both with high accuracy. We also found that expression levels measured by CAGE are better predicted than by RNA-PET or RNA-Seq, and different categories of chromatin features are the most predictive of expression for different RNA measurement methods. Additionally, PolyA+ RNA is overall more predictable than PolyA- RNA among different cell compartments, and PolyA+ cytosolic RNA measured with RNA-Seq is more predictable than PolyA+ nuclear RNA, while the opposite is true for PolyA- RNA.
Our study provides new insights into transcriptional regulation by analyzing chromatin features in different cellular contexts.
PMCID: PMC3491397  PMID: 22950368
19.  The future of DNA sequence archiving 
GigaScience  2012;1:2.
Archives operating under the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration currently preserve all submitted sequences equally, but rapid increases in the rate of global sequence production will soon require differentiated treatment of DNA sequences submitted for archiving. Here, we propose a graded system in which the ease of reproduction of a sequencing-based experiment and the relative availability of a sample for resequencing define the level of lossy compression applied to stored data.
PMCID: PMC3617450  PMID: 23587147
DNA; Sequence; Archive; Compression; Storage; Image
20.  A high-resolution map of human evolutionary constraint using 29 mammals 
Nature  2011;478(7370):476-482.
Comparison of related genomes has emerged as a powerful lens for genome interpretation. Here, we report the sequencing and comparative analysis of 29 eutherian genomes. We confirm that at least 5.5% of the human genome has undergone purifying selection, and report constrained elements covering ~4.2% of the genome. We use evolutionary signatures and comparison with experimental datasets to suggest candidate functions for ~60% of constrained bases. These elements reveal a small number of new coding exons, candidate stop codon readthrough events, and over 10,000 regions of overlapping synonymous constraint within protein-coding exons. We find 220 candidate RNA structural families, and nearly a million elements overlapping potential promoter, enhancer and insulator regions. We report specific amino acid residues that have undergone positive selection, 280,000 non-coding elements exapted from mobile elements, and ~1,000 primate- and human-accelerated elements. Overlap with disease-associated variants suggests our findings will be relevant for studies of human biology and health.
PMCID: PMC3207357  PMID: 21993624
21.  Mouse genomic variation and its effect on phenotypes and gene regulation 
Nature  2011;477(7364):289-294.
We report genome sequences of 17 inbred strains of laboratory mice and identify almost ten times more variants than previously known. We use these genomes to explore the phylogenetic history of the laboratory mouse and to examine the functional consequences of allele-specific variation on transcript abundance, revealing that at least 12% of transcripts show a significant tissue-specific expression bias. By identifying candidate functional variants at 718 quantitative trait loci we show that the molecular nature of functional variants and their position relative to genes vary according to the effect size of the locus. These sequences provide a starting point for a new era in the functional analysis of a key model organism.
PMCID: PMC3276836  PMID: 21921910
22.  Oases: robust de novo RNA-seq assembly across the dynamic range of expression levels 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(8):1086-1092.
Motivation: High-throughput sequencing has made the analysis of new model organisms more affordable. Although assembling a new genome can still be costly and difficult, it is possible to use RNA-seq to sequence mRNA. In the absence of a known genome, it is necessary to assemble these sequences de novo, taking into account possible alternative isoforms and the dynamic range of expression values.
Results: We present a software package named Oases designed to heuristically assemble RNA-seq reads in the absence of a reference genome, across a broad spectrum of expression values and in presence of alternative isoforms. It achieves this by using an array of hash lengths, a dynamic filtering of noise, a robust resolution of alternative splicing events and the efficient merging of multiple assemblies. It was tested on human and mouse RNA-seq data and is shown to improve significantly on the transABySS and Trinity de novo transcriptome assemblers.
Availability and implementation: Oases is freely available under the GPL license at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3324515  PMID: 22368243
23.  Considerations for the inclusion of 2x mammalian genomes in phylogenetic analyses 
Genome Biology  2011;12(2):401.
A response to 2x genomes - depth does matter by MC Milinkovitch, R Helaers, E Depiereux, AC Tzika and T Gabaldón. Genome Biol 2010, 11:R16.
PMCID: PMC3188792  PMID: 21320298
24.  Ensembl 2012 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D84-D90.
The Ensembl project ( provides genome resources for chordate genomes with a particular focus on human genome data as well as data for key model organisms such as mouse, rat and zebrafish. Five additional species were added in the last year including gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) and Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) bringing the total number of supported species to 61 as of Ensembl release 64 (September 2011). Of these, 55 species appear on the main Ensembl website and six species are provided on the Ensembl preview site (Pre!Ensembl; with preliminary support. The past year has also seen improvements across the project.
PMCID: PMC3245178  PMID: 22086963
25.  Major submissions tool developments at the European nucleotide archive 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D43-D47.
The European Nucleotide Archive (ENA;, Europe's primary nucleotide sequence resource, captures and presents globally comprehensive nucleic acid sequence and associated information. Covering the spectrum from raw data to assembled and functionally annotated genomes, the ENA has witnessed a dramatic growth resulting from advances in sequencing technology and ever broadening application of the methodology. During 2011, we have continued to operate and extend the broad range of ENA services. In particular, we have released major new functionality in our interactive web submission system, Webin, through developments in template-based submissions for annotated sequences and support for raw next-generation sequence read submissions.
PMCID: PMC3245037  PMID: 22080548

Results 1-25 (73)