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Comprehensive meta-analysis of Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (STAT) genomic binding patterns discerns cell-specific cis-regulatory modules

Keunsoo Kang1*, Gertraud W Robinson1 and Lothar Hennighausen12*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Genetics and Physiology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 8 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD, 20892-0822, USA

2 National Department of Nanobiomedical Science and WCU Research Center of Nanobiomedical Science, Dankook University, Cheonan, Chungnam, 330-714, Republic of Korea

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-4

Published: 16 January 2013



Cytokine-activated transcription factors from the STAT (Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription) family control common and context-specific genetic programs. It is not clear to what extent cell-specific features determine the binding capacity of seven STAT members and to what degree they share genetic targets. Molecular insight into the biology of STATs was gained from a meta-analysis of 29 available ChIP-seq data sets covering genome-wide occupancy of STATs 1, 3, 4, 5A, 5B and 6 in several cell types.


We determined that the genomic binding capacity of STATs is primarily defined by the cell type and to a lesser extent by individual family members. For example, the overlap of shared binding sites between STATs 3 and 5 in T cells is greater than that between STAT5 in T cells and non-T cells. Even for the top 1,000 highly enriched STAT binding sites, ~15% of STAT5 binding sites in mouse female liver are shared by other STATs in different cell types while in T cells ~90% of STAT5 binding sites are co-occupied by STAT3, STAT4 and STAT6. In addition, we identified 116 cis-regulatory modules (CRM), which are recognized by all STAT members across cell types defining a common JAK-STAT signature. Lastly, in liver STAT5 binding significantly coincides with binding of the cell-specific transcription factors HNF4A, FOXA1 and FOXA2 and is associated with cell-type specific gene transcription.


Our results suggest that genomic binding of STATs is primarily determined by the cell type and further specificity is achieved in part by juxtaposed binding of cell-specific transcription factors.

STAT; GAS motif; Meta-analysis; ChIP-seq; Cis-regulatory module; CRM