Regulation of gene expression requires the combinatorial binding of sequence-specific transcription factors (TFs) at promoters and enhancers. Prior studies showed that alterations in the spacing between TF binding sites can influence promoter and enhancer activity. However, the relative importance of TF spacing alterations resulting from naturally occurring insertions and deletions (InDels) has not been systematically analyzed. To address this question, we first characterized the genome-wide spacing relationships of 73 TFs in human K562 cells as determined by ChIP-seq. We found a dominant pattern of a relaxed range of spacing between collaborative factors, including 45 TFs exclusively exhibiting relaxed spacing with their binding partners. Next, we exploited millions of InDels provided by genetically diverse mouse strains and human individuals to investigate the effects of altered spacing on TF binding and local histone acetylation. These analyses suggested that spacing alterations resulting from naturally occurring InDels are generally tolerated in comparison to genetic variants directly affecting TF binding sites. To experimentally validate this prediction, we introduced synthetic spacing alterations between PU.1 and C/EBPβ binding sites at six endogenous genomic loci in a macrophage cell line. Remarkably, collaborative binding of PU.1 and C/EBPβ at these locations tolerated changes in spacing ranging from 5-bp increase to >30-bp decrease. Collectively, these findings have implications for understanding mechanisms underlying enhancer selection and for the interpretation of non-coding genetic variation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)