Shared nucleotide flanks confer transcriptional competency to bZip core motifs

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Sequence-specific DNA binding recruits transcription factors (TFs) to the genome to regulate gene expression. Here, we perform high resolution mapping of CEBP proteins to determine how sequence dictates genomic occupancy. We demonstrate a fundamental difference between the sequence repertoire utilized by CEBPs in vivo versus the palindromic sequence preference reported by classical in vitro models, by identifying a palindromic motif at <1% of the genomic binding sites. On the native genome, CEBPs bind a diversity of related 10 bp sequences resulting from the fusion of degenerate and canonical half-sites. Altered DNA specificity of CEBPs in cells occurs through heterodimerization with other bZip TFs, and approximately 40% of CEBP-binding sites in primary human cells harbor motifs characteristic of CEBP heterodimers. In addition, we uncover an important role for sequence bias at core-motif-flanking bases for CEBPs and demonstrate that flanking bases regulate motif function across mammalian bZip TFs. Favorable flanking bases confer efficient TF occupancy and transcriptional activity, and DNA shape may explain how the flanks alter TF binding. Importantly, motif optimization within the 10-mer is strongly correlated with cell-type-independent recruitment of CEBPβ, providing key insight into how sequence sub-optimization affects genomic occupancy of widely expressed CEBPs across cell types.

TidsskriftNucleic Acids Research
Udgave nummer16
Sider (fra-til)8371-8384
StatusUdgivet - 19 sep. 2018

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