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Comput Chem. 1999 Jun 15;23(3-4):191-207.

The biology of eukaryotic promoter prediction--a review.

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  • 1Department of Biotechnology, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark. gorm@cbs.dtu.dk


Computational prediction of eukaryotic promoters from the nucleotide sequence is one of the most attractive problems in sequence analysis today, but it is also a very difficult one. Thus, current methods predict in the order of one promoter per kilobase in human DNA, while the average distance between functional promoters has been estimated to be in the range of 30-40 kilobases. Although it is conceivable that some of these predicted promoters correspond to cryptic initiation sites that are used in vivo, it is likely that most are false positives. This suggests that it is important to carefully reconsider the biological data that forms the basis of current algorithms, and we here present a review of data that may be useful in this regard. The review covers the following topics: (1) basal transcription and core promoters, (2) activated transcription and transcription factor binding sites, (3) CpG islands and DNA methylation, (4) chromosomal structure and nucleosome modification, and (5) chromosomal domains and domain boundaries. We discuss the possible lessons that may be learned, especially with respect to the wealth of information about epigenetic regulation of transcription that has been appearing in recent years.

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