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Genome Res. 2011 Aug;21(8):1249-59. doi: 10.1101/gr.120162.110. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

High-throughput mapping of the promoters of the mouse olfactory receptor genes reveals a new type of mammalian promoter and provides insight into olfactory receptor gene regulation.

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Program in Biomedical Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.


The olfactory receptor (OR) genes are the largest mammalian gene family and are expressed in a monogenic and monoallelic fashion in olfactory neurons. Using a high-throughput approach, we mapped the transcription start sites of 1085 of the 1400 murine OR genes and performed computational analysis that revealed potential transcription factor binding sites shared by the majority of these promoters. Our analysis produced a hierarchical model for OR promoter recognition in which unusually high AT content, a unique epigenetic signature, and a stereotypically positioned O/E site distinguish OR promoters from the rest of the murine promoters. Our computations revealed an intriguing correlation between promoter AT content and evolutionary plasticity, as the most AT-rich promoters regulate rapidly evolving gene families. Within the AT-rich promoter category the position of the TATA-box does not correlate with the transcription start site. Instead, a spike in GC composition might define the exact location of the TSS, introducing the concept of "genomic contrast" in transcriptional regulation. Finally, our experiments show that genomic neighborhood rather than promoter sequence correlates with the probability of different OR genes to be expressed in the same olfactory cell.

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