Enhancers regulate progression of development in mammalian cells.

Kranz AL, Eils R, König R (2011) Enhancers regulate progression of development in mammalian cells. Nucleic Acids Res 39(20), 8689-8702. PubMed


During development and differentiation of an organism, accurate gene regulation is central for cells to maintain and balance their differentiation processes. Transcriptional interactions between cis-acting DNA elements such as promoters and enhancers are the basis for precise and balanced transcriptional regulation. We identified modules of combinations of binding sites in proximal and distal regulatory regions upstream of all transcription start sites (TSSs) in silico and applied these modules to gene expression time-series of mouse embryonic development and differentiation of human stem cells. In addition to tissue-specific regulation controlled by combinations of transcription factors (TFs) binding at promoters, we observed that in particular the combination of TFs binding at promoters together with TFs binding at the respective enhancers regulate highly specifically temporal progression during development: whereas 40% of TFs were specific for time intervals, 79% of TF pairs and even 97% of promoter-enhancer modules showed specificity for single time intervals of the human stem cells. Predominantly SP1 and E2F contributed to temporal specificity at promoters and the forkhead (FOX) family of TFs at enhancer regions. Altogether, we characterized three classes of TFs: with binding sites being enriched at the TSS (like SP1), depleted at the TSS (like FOX), and rather uniformly distributed.

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doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr602 PMID: 21785139