Making sense of the genome

Almost every week we hear of a new genome sequence being completed, yet turning sequence information into knowledge about what individual genes do is very difficult. An article published in Journal of Biology this week will simplify this task, as it describes a new online tool that dramatically improves predictions of how individual genes are regulated.

Dr. Wyeth Wasserman and his team have created this powerful new two-step method for identifying which regulators of gene expression, called transcription factors, are in control of individual genes. The new method is far more selective than its predecessors, reducing the number of biologically irrelevant transcription factors identified in a search by 85%. The researchers have now made the tool available through an easy to use website called ConSite.

This web-based tool will be particularly helpful in analysing genes whose coding sequences do not give any clues as to their function. Around 30% of the predicted human genes contain no recognisable domains. Through knowing which transcription factors control the expression of a particular gene, scientists can get an idea as to what processes the gene is involved in. This is because transcription factors are themselves tightly controlled to ensure that a gene is only expressed when and where it is needed, and a great deal is already known about which events activate which transcription factors.

"Knowledge of the identity of a mediating transcription factor can give important insights into the function of a gene," according to the authors of the article.

Transcription factors act by binding to specific sequences in a regulatory region that is located in the DNA upstream of the coding region. But they can tolerate a large amount of variation in these sequences. This means that searching an upstream regulatory region for transcription factor binding sites identifies a large number of such sites, most of which are biologically i

Contact: Gemma Bradley
BioMed Central

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