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Interplays between DNA motifs and epigenetic elements


Histones are modified by enzymes that act in a locus, cell-type, and developmental stage-specific manner. The recruitment of enzymes to chromatin is regulated at multiple levels, including interaction with sequence-specific DNA-binding factors. However, the DNA-binding specificity of the regulatory factors that orchestrate specific histone modifications has not been broadly mapped. We have analyzed 6 histone marks (H3K4me1, H3K4me3, H3K27ac, H3K27me3, K3H9me3, H3K36me3) across 121 human cell types and tissues from the NIH Roadmap Epigenomics Project as well as 8 histone marks (with the addition of H3K4me2 and H3K9ac) from the mouse ENCODE Consortium. We have identified 361 and 369 DNA motifs in human and mouse, respectively, that are the most predictive of each histone mark. Interestingly, 107 human motifs are conserved between the two species. In human embryonic cell line H1, we mutated only the found DNA motifs at particular loci and the significant reduction of H3K27ac levels validated the regulatory roles of the perturbed motifs. The functionality of these motifs was also supported by the evidence that histone-associated motifs, especially H3K4me3 motifs, significantly overlap with the expression of quantitative trait loci SNPs in cancer patients more than the known and random motifs. Furthermore, we observed possible feedbacks to control chromatin dynamics as the found motifs appear in the promoters or enhancers associated with various histone modification enzymes. These results pave the way toward revealing the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic events, such as histone modification dynamics and epigenetic priming.

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