Eukaryotic transcriptional regulation : from data mining to transcriptional profiling



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Survival of cells and organisms requires that each of thousands of genes is expressed at the correct time in development, in the correct tissue, and under the correct conditions. Transcription is the primary point of gene regulation. Genes are activated and repressed by transcription factors, which are proteins that become active through signaling, bind, sometimes cooperatively, to regulatory regions of DNA, and interact with other proteins such as chromatin remodelers. Yeast has nearly six thousand genes, several hundred of which are transcription factors; transcription factors comprise around 2000 of the 22,000 genes in the human genome. When and how these transcription factors are activated, as well as which subsets of genes they regulate, is a current, active area of research essential to understanding the transcriptional regulatory programs of organisms. We approached this problem in two divergent ways: first, an in silico study of human transcription factor combinations, and second, an experimental study of the transcriptional response of yeast mutants deficient in DNA repair. First, in order to better understand the combinatorial nature of transcription factor binding, we developed a data mining approach to assess whether transcription factors whose binding motifs were frequently proximal in the human genome were more likely to interact. We found many instances in the literature in which over-represented transcription factor pairs co-regulated the same gene, so we used co-citation to assess the utility of this method on a larger scale. We determined that over-represented pairs were more likely to be co-cited than would be expected by chance. Because proper repair of DNA is an essential and highly-conserved process in all eukaryotes, we next used cDNA microarrays to measure differentially expressed genes in eighteen yeast deletion strains with sensitivity to the DNA cross-linking agent methyl methane sulfonate (MMS); many of these mutants were transcription factors or DNA-binding proteins. Combining this data with tools such as chromatin immunoprecipitation, gene ontology analysis, expression profile similarity, and motif analysis allowed us to propose a model for the roles of Iki3 and of YML081W, a poorly-characterized gene, in DNA repair.