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PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Jan 30;10(1):e1003449. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003449. eCollection 2014.

Automated discovery of tissue-targeting enhancers and transcription factors from binding motif and gene function data.

Author information

1
Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
2
Biomedical Informatics Program, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
3
Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.
4
Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America ; Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.

Abstract

Identifying enhancers regulating gene expression remains an important and challenging task. While recent sequencing-based methods provide epigenomic characteristics that correlate well with enhancer activity, it remains onerous to comprehensively identify all enhancers across development. Here we introduce a computational framework to identify tissue-specific enhancers evolving under purifying selection. First, we incorporate high-confidence binding site predictions with target gene functional enrichment analysis to identify transcription factors (TFs) likely functioning in a particular context. We then search the genome for clusters of binding sites for these TFs, overcoming previous constraints associated with biased manual curation of TFs or enhancers. Applying our method to the placenta, we find 33 known and implicate 17 novel TFs in placental function, and discover 2,216 putative placenta enhancers. Using luciferase reporter assays, 31/36 (86%) tested candidates drive activity in placental cells. Our predictions agree well with recent epigenomic data in human and mouse, yet over half our loci, including 7/8 (87%) tested regions, are novel. Finally, we establish that our method is generalizable by applying it to 5 additional tissues: heart, pancreas, blood vessel, bone marrow, and liver.

PMID:
24499934
PMCID:
PMC3907286
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003449
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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