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PLoS Comput Biol. 2016 Apr 28;12(4):e1004894. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004894. eCollection 2016 Apr.

Nucleosome Presence at AML-1 Binding Sites Inversely Correlates with Ly49 Expression: Revelations from an Informatics Analysis of Nucleosomes and Immune Cell Transcription Factors.

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Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Institute of Systems Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Beyond its role in genomic organization and compaction, the nucleosome is believed to participate in the regulation of gene transcription. Here, we report a computational method to evaluate the nucleosome sensitivity for a transcription factor over a given stretch of the genome. Sensitive factors are predicted to be those with binding sites preferentially contained within nucleosome boundaries and lacking 10 bp periodicity. Based on these criteria, the Acute Myeloid Leukemia-1a (AML-1a) transcription factor, a regulator of immune gene expression, was identified as potentially sensitive to nucleosomal regulation within the mouse Ly49 gene family. This result was confirmed in RMA, a cell line with natural expression of Ly49, using MNase-Seq to generate a nucleosome map of chromosome 6, where the Ly49 gene family is located. Analysis of this map revealed a specific depletion of nucleosomes at AML-1a binding sites in the expressed Ly49A when compared to the other, silent Ly49 genes. Our data suggest that nucleosome-based regulation contributes to the expression of Ly49 genes, and we propose that this method of predicting nucleosome sensitivity could aid in dissecting the regulatory role of nucleosomes in general.

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