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PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(3):e1002958. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002958. Epub 2013 Mar 21.

A discriminative approach for unsupervised clustering of DNA sequence motifs.

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  • 1Biobase GmbH, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.


Algorithmic comparison of DNA sequence motifs is a problem in bioinformatics that has received increased attention during the last years. Its main applications concern characterization of potentially novel motifs and clustering of a motif collection in order to remove redundancy. Despite growing interest in motif clustering, the question which motif clusters to aim at has so far not been systematically addressed. Here we analyzed motif similarities in a comprehensive set of vertebrate transcription factor classes. For this we developed enhanced similarity scores by inclusion of the information coverage (IC) criterion, which evaluates the fraction of information an alignment covers in aligned motifs. A network-based method enabled us to identify motif clusters with high correspondence to DNA-binding domain phylogenies and prior experimental findings. Based on this analysis we derived a set of motif families representing distinct binding specificities. These motif families were used to train a classifier which was further integrated into a novel algorithm for unsupervised motif clustering. Application of the new algorithm demonstrated its superiority to previously published methods and its ability to reproduce entrained motif families. As a result, our work proposes a probabilistic approach to decide whether two motifs represent common or distinct binding specificities.

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