Transcriptional enhancers regulate spatio-temporal gene expression. While genomic assays can identify putative enhancers en masse, assigning target genes is a complex challenge. We devised a machine learning approach, McEnhancer, which links target genes to putative enhancers via a semi-supervised learning algorithm that predicts gene expression patterns based on enriched sequence features. Predicted expression patterns were 73-98% accurate, predicted assignments showed strong Hi-C interaction enrichment, enhancer-associated histone modifications were evident, and known functional motifs were recovered. Our model provides a general framework to link globally identified enhancers to targets and contributes to deciphering the regulatory genome.
Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; Enhancer to target gene assignment; Gene expression; Gene regulation; Interpolated Markov model; Machine learning; Semi-supervised model.