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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Inference of transcriptional regulation using gene expression data from the bovine and human genomes

Amonida Zadissa1, John C McEwan2 and Chris M Brown1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand

2 AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Mosgiel, Private Bag 50034, New Zealand

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:265  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-265

Published: 3 August 2007



Gene expression is in part regulated by sequences in promoters that bind transcription factors. Thus, co-expressed genes may have shared sequence motifs representing putative transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs). However, for agriculturally important animals the genomic sequence is often incomplete. The more complete human genome may be able to be used for this prediction by taking advantage of the expected evolutionary conservation in TFBSs between the species.


A method of de novo TFBS prediction based on MEME was implemented, tested, and validated on a muscle-specific dataset.

Muscle specific expression data from EST library analysis from cattle was used to predict sets of genes whose expression was enriched in muscle and cardiac tissues. The upstream 1500 bases from calculated orthologous genes were extracted from the human reference set. A set of common motifs were discovered in these promoters. Slightly over one third of these motifs were identified as known TFBSs including known muscle specific binding sites. This analysis also predicted several highly statistically significantly overrepresented sites that may be novel TFBS.

An independent analysis of the equivalent bovine genomic sequences was also done, this gave less detailed results than the human analysis due to both the quality of orthologue prediction and assembly in promoter regions. However, the most common motifs could be detected in both sets.


Using promoter sequences from human genes is a useful approach when studying gene expression in species with limited or non-existing genomic sequence. As the bovine genome becomes better annotated it can in turn serve as the reference genome for other agriculturally important ruminants, such as sheep, goat and deer.