Semiautomated and rapid quantification of nucleic acid footprinting and structure mapping experiments

Nat Protoc. 2008;3(9):1395-401. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.134.


We have developed protocols for rapidly quantifying the band intensities from nucleic acid chemical mapping gels at single-nucleotide resolution. These protocols are implemented in the software SAFA (semi-automated footprinting analysis) that can be downloaded without charge from The protocols implemented in SAFA have five steps: (i) lane identification, (ii) gel rectification, (iii) band assignment, (iv) model fitting and (v) band-intensity normalization. SAFA enables the rapid quantitation of gel images containing thousands of discrete bands, thereby eliminating a bottleneck to the analysis of chemical mapping experiments. An experienced user of the software can quantify a gel image in approximately 20 min. Although SAFA was developed to analyze hydroxyl radical (*OH) footprints, it effectively quantifies the gel images obtained with other types of chemical mapping probes. We also present a series of tutorial movies that illustrate the best practices and different steps in the SAFA analysis as a supplement to this protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Footprinting / methods*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Software*