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Bioinformatics. 2003 Oct;19 Suppl 2:ii5-14.

Computational detection of cis -regulatory modules.

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  • 1Department of Electrical Engineering ESAT-SCD, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 10, Leuven, Belgium. stein.aerts@esat.kuleuven.ac.be



The transcriptional regulation of a metazoan gene depends on the cooperative action of multiple transcription factors that bind to cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) located in the neighborhood of the gene. By integrating multiple signals, CRMs confer an organism specific spatial and temporal rate of transcription.


Based on the hypothesis that genes that are needed in exactly the same conditions might share similar regulatory switches, we have developed a novel methodology to find CRMs in a set of coexpressed or coregulated genes. The ModuleSearcher algorithm finds for a given gene set the best scoring combination of transcription factor binding sites within a sequence window using an A(*)procedure for tree searching. To keep the level of noise low, we use DNA sequences that are most likely to contain functional cis-regulatory information, namely conserved regions between human and mouse orthologous genes. The ModuleScanner performs genomic searches with a predicted CRM or with a user-defined CRM known from the literature to find possible target genes. The validity of a set of putative targets is checked using Gene Ontology annotations. We demonstrate the use and effectiveness of the ModuleSearcher and ModuleScanner algorithms and test their specificity and sensitivity on semi-artificial data. Next, we search for a module in a cluster of gene expression profiles of human cell cycle genes.


The ModuleSearcher is available as a web service within the TOUCAN workbench for regulatory sequence analysis, which can be downloaded from http://www.esat.kuleuven.ac.be/~dna/BioI.

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