ChIP-seq Identification of Weakly Conserved Heart Enhancers
Accurate control of tissue-specific gene expression plays a pivotal role in heart development, but few cardiac transcriptional enhancers have thus far been identified. Extreme non-coding sequence conservation successfully predicts enhancers active in many tissues, but fails to identify substantial numbers of heart enhancers. Here we used ChIP-seq with the enhancer-associated protein p300 from mouse embryonic day 11.5 heart tissue to identify over three thousand candidate heart enhancers genome-wide. Compared to other tissues studied at this time-point, most candidate heart enhancers are less deeply conserved in vertebrate evolution. Nevertheless, the testing of 130 candidate regions in a transgenic mouse assay revealed that most of them reproducibly function as enhancers active in the heart, irrespective of their degree of evolutionary constraint. These results provide evidence for a large population of poorly conserved heart enhancers and suggest that the evolutionary constraint of embryonic enhancers can vary depending on tissue type.