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Genome Res. 2005 Feb;15(2):205-13. Epub 2005 Jan 14.

Genome-wide regulatory complexity in yeast promoters: separation of functionally conserved and neutral sequence.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


To gauge the complexity of gene regulation in yeast, it is essential to know how much promoter sequence is functional. Conservation across species can be a sensitive means of detecting functional sequences, provided that the significance of conservation can be accurately calibrated with the local neutral mutation rate. By analyzing yeast coding and promoter sequences, we find that neutral mutation rates in yeast are uniform genome-wide, in contrast to mammals, where neutral mutation rates vary along chromosomes. We develop an approach that uses this uniform rate to estimate the amount of promoter sequence under purifying selection. This amount is approximately 30%, corresponding to roughly 90 bp for a typical promoter. Furthermore, using a hidden Markov model, we are able to separate each promoter into distinct high and low conservation regions. Known regulatory motifs are strongly biased toward high conservation regions, while low conservation regions have mutation rates similar to that of the neutral background. Certain Gene Ontology groupings of genes (e.g., Carbohydrate Metabolism) have large amounts of high conservation sequence, suggesting complexity in their transcriptional regulation. Others (e.g., RNA Processing) have little high conservation sequence and are likely to be simply regulated. The separation of functionally conserved sequence from the neutral background allows us to estimate the complexity of cis-regulation on a genomic scale.

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