High-throughput mapping of protein occupancy identifies functional elements without the restriction of a candidate factor approach

Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Mar;39(6):e33. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq1213. Epub 2010 Dec 17.


There are a variety of in vivo and in vitro methods to determine the genome-wide specificity of a particular trans-acting factor. However there is an inherent limitation to these candidate approaches. Most biological studies focus on the regulation of particular genes, which are bound by numerous unknown trans-acting factors. Therefore, most biological inquiries would be better addressed by a method that maps all trans-acting factors that bind particular regions rather than identifying all regions bound by a particular trans-acting factor. Here, we present a high-throughput binding assay that returns thousands of unbiased measurements of complex formation on nucleic acid. We applied this method to identify transcriptional complexes that form on DNA regions upstream of genes involved in pluripotency in embryonic stem cells (ES cells) before and after differentiation. The raw binding scores, motif analysis and expression data are used to computationally reconstruct remodeling events returning the identity of the transcription factor(s) most likely to comprise the complex. The most significant remodeling event during ES cell differentiation occurred upstream of the REST gene, a transcriptional repressor that blocks neurogenesis. We also demonstrate how this method can be used to discover RNA elements and discuss applications of screening polymorphisms for allelic differences in binding.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / analysis*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / analysis*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RE1-silencing transcription factor
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA