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Analysis of Genetic Variation Indicates DNA Shape Involvement in Purifying Selection.


Noncoding DNA sequences, which play various roles in gene expression and regulation, are under evolutionary pressure. Gene regulation requires specific protein-DNA binding events, and our previous studies showed that both DNA sequence and shape readout are employed by transcription factors (TFs) to achieve DNA binding specificity. By investigating the shape-disrupting properties of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in human regulatory regions, we established a link between disruptive local DNA shape changes and loss of specific TF binding. Furthermore, we described cases where disease-associated SNPs may alter TF binding through DNA shape changes. This link led us to hypothesize that local DNA shape within and around TF binding sites is under selection pressure. To verify this hypothesis, we analyzed SNP data derived from 216 natural strains of Drosophila melanogaster. Comparing SNPs located in functional and nonfunctional regions within experimentally validated cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) from D. melanogaster that are active in the blastoderm stage of development, we found that SNPs within functional regions tended to cause smaller DNA shape variations. Furthermore, SNPs with higher minor allele frequency were more likely to result in smaller DNA shape variations. The same analysis based on a large number of SNPs in putative CRMs of the D. melanogaster genome derived from DNase I accessibility data confirmed these observations. Taken together, our results indicate that common SNPs in functional regions tend to maintain DNA shape, whereas shape-disrupting SNPs are more likely to be eliminated through purifying selection.

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