Biological Sciences Columbia University
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Genomewide analysis of Drosophila GAGA factor target genes reveals context-dependent DNA binding
Harmen Bussemaker (Associate Professor)
The association of sequence-specific DNA-binding factors with their cognate target sequences in vivo depends on the local molecular context, yet this context is poorly understood. To address this issue, we have performed genomewide mapping of in vivo target genes of Drosophila GAGA factor (GAF). The resulting list of approximately 250 target genes indicates that GAF regulates many cellular pathways. We applied unbiased motif-based regression analysis to identify the sequence context that determines GAF binding. Our results confirm that GAF selectively associates with (GA)(n) repeat elements in vivo. GAF binding occurs in upstream regulatory regions, but less in downstream regions. Surprisingly, GAF binds abundantly to introns but is virtually absent from exons, even though the density of (GA)(n) is roughly the same. Intron binding occurs equally frequently in last introns compared with first introns, suggesting that GAF may not only regulate transcription initiation, but possibly also elongation. We provide evidence for cooperative binding of GAF to closely spaced (GA)(n) elements and explain the lack of GAF binding to exons by the absence of such closely spaced GA repeats. Our approach for revealing determinants of context-dependent DNA binding will be applicable to many other transcription factors.

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