Combinatorial binding predicts spatio-temporal cis-regulatory activity


  • R.P. Zinzen
  • C. Girardot
  • J. Gagneur
  • M. Braun
  • E.E. Furlong


  • Nature


  • Nature 462 (7269): 65-70


  • Development requires the establishment of precise patterns of gene expression, which are primarily controlled by transcription factors binding to cis-regulatory modules. Although transcription factor occupancy can now be identified at genome-wide scales, decoding this regulatory landscape remains a daunting challenge. Here we used a novel approach to predict spatio-temporal cis-regulatory activity based only on in vivo transcription factor binding and enhancer activity data. We generated a high-resolution atlas of cis-regulatory modules describing their temporal and combinatorial occupancy during Drosophila mesoderm development. The binding profiles of cis-regulatory modules with characterized expression were used to train support vector machines to predict five spatio-temporal expression patterns. In vivo transgenic reporter assays demonstrate the high accuracy of these predictions and reveal an unanticipated plasticity in transcription factor binding leading to similar expression. This data-driven approach does not require previous knowledge of transcription factor sequence affinity, function or expression, making it widely applicable.