Background: The revelation that the human genome encodes only approximately 25,000 genes and thus cannot account for phenotypic complexity has been one of the biggest surprises in the post-genomic era. However, accumulating evidence suggests that transcriptional regulation may be in large part responsible for this observed mammalian complexity. Consequently, there has been a strong drive to locate cis-regulatory regions in mammalian genomes in order to understand the unifying principles governing these regions, including their genomic distribution. Although a number of systematic approaches have been developed, these all discount coding sequence.
Methodology/principal findings: Using the computational tool PRI (Pattern-defined Regulatory Islands), which does not mask coding sequence, we identified a regulatory region associated with the gene ADAMTS5 that encompasses the entirety of the essential coding exon 2. We demonstrate through a combination of chromatin immunoprecipitation and reporter gene studies that this region can not only bind the myogenic transcription factors MYOD and myogenin and the E-protein HEB but can also function as a very strong myogenic transcriptional enhancer.
Conclusions/significance: Thus, we report the identification and detailed characterization of an exonic enhancer. Ultimately, this leads to the interesting question of why evolution would be so parsimonious in the functional assignment of sequence.