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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Eukaryotic genomes may exhibit up to 10 generic classes of gene promoters

Paul Gagniuc1* and Constantin Ionescu-Tirgoviste2

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Genetics, University of Bucharest, Bucharest 060101, Romania

2 National Institute of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases “N.C. Paulescu”, Bucharest, Romania

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:512  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-512

Published: 28 September 2012

Abstract

Background

The main function of gene promoters appears to be the integration of different gene products in their biological pathways in order to maintain homeostasis. Generally, promoters have been classified in two major classes, namely TATA and CpG. Nevertheless, many genes using the same combinatorial formation of transcription factors have different gene expression patterns. Accordingly, we tried to ask ourselves some fundamental questions: Why certain genes have an overall predisposition for higher gene expression levels than others? What causes such a predisposition? Is there a structural relationship of these sequences in different tissues? Is there a strong phylogenetic relationship between promoters of closely related species?

Results

In order to gain valuable insights into different promoter regions, we obtained a series of image-based patterns which allowed us to identify 10 generic classes of promoters. A comprehensive analysis was undertaken for promoter sequences from Arabidopsis thaliana, Drosophila melanogaster, Homo sapiens and Oryza sativa, and a more extensive analysis of tissue-specific promoters in humans. We observed a clear preference for these species to use certain classes of promoters for specific biological processes. Moreover, in humans, we found that different tissues use distinct classes of promoters, reflecting an emerging promoter network. Depending on the tissue type, comparisons made between these classes of promoters reveal a complementarity between their patterns whereas some other classes of promoters have been observed to occur in competition. Furthermore, we also noticed the existence of some transitional states between these classes of promoters that may explain certain evolutionary mechanisms, which suggest a possible predisposition for specific levels of gene expression and perhaps for a different number of factors responsible for triggering gene expression. Our conclusions are based on comprehensive data from three different databases and a new computer model whose core is using Kappa index of coincidence.

Conclusions

To fully understand the connections between gene promoters and gene expression, we analyzed thousands of promoter sequences using our Kappa Index of Coincidence method and a specialized Optical Character Recognition (OCR) neural network. Under our criteria, 10 classes of promoters were detected. In addition, the existence of “transitional” promoters suggests that there is an evolutionary weighted continuum between classes, depending perhaps upon changes in their gene products.

Keywords:
Gene promoters; Promoter classes; Eukaryotic genomes; Promoter patterns; Kappa index of coincidence; Promoter network