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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Histone modification profiles are predictive for tissue/cell-type specific expression of both protein-coding and microRNA genes

Zhihua Zhang and Michael Q Zhang*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Center for Systems Biology, University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W Campbell Road, Richardson, TX 75080, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:155  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-155

Published: 14 May 2011



Gene expression is regulated at both the DNA sequence level and through modification of chromatin. However, the effect of chromatin on tissue/cell-type specific gene regulation (TCSR) is largely unknown. In this paper, we present a method to elucidate the relationship between histone modification/variation (HMV) and TCSR.


A classifier for differentiating CD4+ T cell-specific genes from housekeeping genes using HMV data was built. We found HMV in both promoter and gene body regions to be predictive of genes which are targets of TCSR. For example, the histone modification types H3K4me3 and H3K27ac were identified as the most predictive for CpG-related promoters, whereas H3K4me3 and H3K79me3 were the most predictive for nonCpG-related promoters. However, genes targeted by TCSR can be predicted using other type of HMVs as well. Such redundancy implies that multiple type of underlying regulatory elements, such as enhancers or intragenic alternative promoters, which can regulate gene expression in a tissue/cell-type specific fashion, may be marked by the HMVs. Finally, we show that the predictive power of HMV for TCSR is not limited to protein-coding genes in CD4+ T cells, as we successfully predicted TCSR targeted genes in muscle cells, as well as microRNA genes with expression specific to CD4+ T cells, by the same classifier which was trained on HMV data of protein-coding genes in CD4+ T cells.


We have begun to understand the HMV patterns that guide gene expression in both tissue/cell-type specific and ubiquitous manner.