Single base-pair resolution analysis of DNA binding motif with MoMotif reveals an oncogenic function of CTCF zinc-finger 1 mutation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Aug 10;50(15):8441-8458. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkac658. Online ahead of print.


Defining the impact of missense mutations on the recognition of DNA motifs is highly dependent on bioinformatic tools that define DNA binding elements. However, classical motif analysis tools remain limited in their capacity to identify subtle changes in complex binding motifs between distinct conditions. To overcome this limitation, we developed a new tool, MoMotif, that facilitates a sensitive identification, at the single base-pair resolution, of complex, or subtle, alterations to core binding motifs, discerned from ChIP-seq data. We employed MoMotif to define the previously uncharacterized recognition motif of CTCF zinc-finger 1 (ZF1), and to further define the impact of CTCF ZF1 mutation on its association with chromatin. Mutations of CTCF ZF1 are exclusive to breast cancer and are associated with metastasis and therapeutic resistance, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Using MoMotif, we identified an extension of the CTCF core binding motif, necessitating a functional ZF1 to bind appropriately. Using a combination of ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq, we discover that the inability to bind this extended motif drives an altered transcriptional program associated with the oncogenic phenotypes observed clinically. Our study demonstrates that MoMotif is a powerful new tool for comparative ChIP-seq analysis and characterising DNA-protein contacts.