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Enhancer–gene maps in the human and zebrafish genomes using evolutionary linkage conservation

Yves Clément, Patrick Torbey, Pascale Gilardi-Hebenstreit, Hugues Roest Crollius


The spatiotemporal expression of genes is controlled by enhancer sequences that bind transcription factors. Identifying the target genes of enhancers remains difficult because enhancers regulate gene expression over long genomic distances. To address this, we used an evolutionary approach to build two genome-wide maps of predicted enhancer-gene associations in the human and zebrafish genomes. Evolutionary conserved sequences were linked to their predicted target genes using PEGASUS, a bioinformatics method that relies on evolutionary conservation of synteny. The analysis of these maps revealed that the number of predicted enhancers linked to a gene correlate with its expression breadth. Comparison of both maps identified hundreds of putative vertebrate ancestral regulatory relationships from which we could determine that predicted enhancer-gene distances scale with genome size despite strong positional conservation. The two maps represent a resource for further studies, including the prioritization of sequence variants in whole genome sequence of patients affected by genetic diseases.

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Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Jan 16. pii : gkz1199. doi : 10.1093/nar/gkz1199.