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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the Eleventh Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC 2013): Genomics

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A genome-wide cis-regulatory element discovery method based on promoter sequences and gene co-expression networks

Zhen Gao1*, Ruizhe Zhao2 and Jianhua Ruan1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, The University of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA

2 Ronald Reagan High School, 19000 Ronald Reagan, San Antonio, TX 78258, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14(Suppl 1):S4  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-S1-S4

Published: 21 January 2013



Deciphering cis-regulatory networks has become an attractive yet challenging task. This paper presents a simple method for cis-regulatory network discovery which aims to avoid some of the common problems of previous approaches.


Using promoter sequences and gene expression profiles as input, rather than clustering the genes by the expression data, our method utilizes co-expression neighborhood information for each individual gene, thereby overcoming the disadvantages of current clustering based models which may miss specific information for individual genes. In addition, rather than using a motif database as an input, it implements a simple motif count table for each enumerated k-mer for each gene promoter sequence. Thus, it can be used for species where previous knowledge of cis-regulatory motifs is unknown and has the potential to discover new transcription factor binding sites. Applications on Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Arabidopsis have shown that our method has a good prediction accuracy and outperforms a phylogenetic footprinting approach. Furthermore, the top ranked gene-motif regulatory clusters are evidently functionally co-regulated, and the regulatory relationships between the motifs and the enriched biological functions can often be confirmed by literature.


Since this method is simple and gene-specific, it can be readily utilized for insufficiently studied species or flexibly used as an additional step or data source for previous transcription regulatory networks discovery models.