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Nat Protoc. 2008;3(9):1395-401. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.134.

Semiautomated and rapid quantification of nucleic acid footprinting and structure mapping experiments.

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Department of Developmental Genetics and Bioinformatics, Wadsworth Center, Albany, New York 12208, USA.


We have developed protocols for rapidly quantifying the band intensities from nucleic acid chemical mapping gels at single-nucleotide resolution. These protocols are implemented in the software SAFA (semi-automated footprinting analysis) that can be downloaded without charge from The protocols implemented in SAFA have five steps: (i) lane identification, (ii) gel rectification, (iii) band assignment, (iv) model fitting and (v) band-intensity normalization. SAFA enables the rapid quantitation of gel images containing thousands of discrete bands, thereby eliminating a bottleneck to the analysis of chemical mapping experiments. An experienced user of the software can quantify a gel image in approximately 20 min. Although SAFA was developed to analyze hydroxyl radical (*OH) footprints, it effectively quantifies the gel images obtained with other types of chemical mapping probes. We also present a series of tutorial movies that illustrate the best practices and different steps in the SAFA analysis as a supplement to this protocol.

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