Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Genome Biol. 2009;10(11):R131. doi: 10.1186/gb-2009-10-11-r131. Epub 2009 Nov 18.

CTCF binding site classes exhibit distinct evolutionary, genomic, epigenomic and transcriptomic features.

Author information

Penn Center for Bioinformatics, Department of Genetics, 415 Curie Boulevard, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



CTCF (CCCTC-binding factor) is an evolutionarily conserved zinc finger protein involved in diverse functions ranging from negative regulation of MYC, to chromatin insulation of the beta-globin gene cluster, to imprinting of the Igf2 locus. The 11 zinc fingers of CTCF are known to differentially contribute to the CTCF-DNA interaction at different binding sites. It is possible that the differences in CTCF-DNA conformation at different binding sites underlie CTCF's functional diversity. If so, the CTCF binding sites may belong to distinct classes, each compatible with a specific functional role.


We have classified approximately 26,000 CTCF binding sites in CD4+ T cells into three classes based on their similarity to the well-characterized CTCF DNA-binding motif. We have comprehensively characterized these three classes of CTCF sites with respect to several evolutionary, genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic and functional features. We find that the low-occupancy sites tend to be cell type specific. Furthermore, while the high-occupancy sites associate with repressive histone marks and greater gene co-expression within a CTCF-flanked block, the low-occupancy sites associate with active histone marks and higher gene expression. We found that the low-occupancy sites have greater conservation in their flanking regions compared to high-occupancy sites. Interestingly, based on a novel class-conservation metric, we observed that human low-occupancy sites tend to be conserved as low-occupancy sites in mouse (and vice versa) more frequently than expected.


Our work reveals several key differences among CTCF occupancy-based classes and suggests a critical, yet distinct functional role played by low-occupancy sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center