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Quantitative modeling of transcription factor binding specificities using DNA shape

Zhou, Tianyin, Shen, Ning, Yang, Lin, Abe, Namiko, Horton, John, Mann, Richard S., Bussemaker, Harmen J., Gordân, Raluca, Rohs, Remo
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.15 pp. 4654-4659
DNA, binding sites, genes, models, nucleotide sequences, transcription (genetics), transcription factors
DNA binding specificities of transcription factors (TFs) are a key component of gene regulatory processes. Underlying mechanisms that explain the highly specific binding of TFs to their genomic target sites are poorly understood. A better understanding of TF−DNA binding requires the ability to quantitatively model TF binding to accessible DNA as its basic step, before additional in vivo components can be considered. Traditionally, these models were built based on nucleotide sequence. Here, we integrated 3D DNA shape information derived with a high-throughput approach into the modeling of TF binding specificities. Using support vector regression, we trained quantitative models of TF binding specificity based on protein binding microarray (PBM) data for 68 mammalian TFs. The evaluation of our models included cross-validation on specific PBM array designs, testing across different PBM array designs, and using PBM-trained models to predict relative binding affinities derived from in vitro selection combined with deep sequencing (SELEX-seq). Our results showed that shape-augmented models compared favorably to sequence-based models. Although both k -mer and DNA shape features can encode interdependencies between nucleotide positions of the binding site, using DNA shape features reduced the dimensionality of the feature space. In addition, analyzing the feature weights of DNA shape-augmented models uncovered TF family-specific structural readout mechanisms that were not revealed by the DNA sequence. As such, this work combines knowledge from structural biology and genomics, and suggests a new path toward understanding TF binding and genome function.