MAE-seq refines regulatory elements across the genome

Nucleic Acids Res. 2024 Jan 25;52(2):e9. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkad1129.


Proper cell fate determination relies on precise spatial and temporal genome-wide cooperation between regulatory elements (REs) and their targeted genes. However, the lengths of REs defined using different methods vary, which indicates that there is sequence redundancy and that the context of the genome may be unintelligible. We developed a method called MAE-seq (Massive Active Enhancers by Sequencing) to experimentally identify functional REs at a 25-bp scale. In this study, MAE-seq was used to identify 626879, 541617 and 554826 25-bp enhancers in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), C2C12 and HEK 293T, respectively. Using ∼1.6 trillion 25 bp DNA fragments and screening 12 billion cells, we identified 626879 as active enhancers in mESCs as an example. Comparative analysis revealed that most of the histone modification datasets were annotated by MAE-Seq loci. Furthermore, 33.85% (212195) of the identified enhancers were identified as de novo ones with no epigenetic modification. Intriguingly, distinct chromatin states dictate the requirement for dissimilar cofactors in governing novel and known enhancers. Validation results show that these 25-bp sequences could act as a functional unit, which shows identical or similar expression patterns as the previously defined larger elements, Enhanced resolution facilitated the identification of numerous cell-specific enhancers and their accurate annotation as super enhancers. Moreover, we characterized novel elements capable of augmenting gene activity. By integrating with high-resolution Hi-C data, over 55.64% of novel elements may have a distal association with different targeted genes. For example, we found that the Cdh1 gene interacts with one novel and two known REs in mESCs. The biological effects of these interactions were investigated using CRISPR-Cas9, revealing their role in coordinating Cdh1 gene expression and mESC proliferation. Our study presents an experimental approach to refine the REs at 25-bp resolution, advancing the precision of genome annotation and unveiling the underlying genome context. This novel approach not only advances our understanding of gene regulation but also opens avenues for comprehensive exploration of the genomic landscape.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Mice
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid* / genetics


  • Chromatin