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Finding subtypes of transcription factor motif pairs with distinct regulatory roles

Bais, Abha Singh, Kaminski, Naftali, Benos, Panayiotis V.
Nucleic acids research 2011 v.39 no.11 pp. e76
DNA, binding sites, data collection, genes, nucleotide sequences, transcription (genetics), transcription factors
DNA sequences bound by a transcription factor (TF) are presumed to contain sequence elements that reflect its DNA binding preferences and its downstream-regulatory effects. Experimentally identified TF binding sites (TFBSs) are usually similar enough to be summarized by a 'consensus' motif, representative of the TF DNA binding specificity. Studies have shown that groups of nucleotide TFBS variants (subtypes) can contribute to distinct modes of downstream regulation by the TF via differential recruitment of cofactors. A TFA may bind to TFBS subtypes a₁ or a₂ depending on whether it associates with cofactors TFB or TFC, respectively. While some approaches can discover motif pairs (dyads), none address the problem of identifying 'variants' of dyads. TFs are key components of multiple regulatory pathways targeting different sets of genes perhaps with different binding preferences. Identifying the discriminating TF-DNA associations that lead to the differential downstream regulation is thus essential. We present DiSCo (Discovery of Subtypes and Cofactors), a novel approach for identifying variants of dyad motifs (and their respective target sequence sets) that are instrumental for differential downstream regulation. Using both simulated and experimental datasets, we demonstrate how current motif discovery can be successfully leveraged to address this question.