Integrated methodologies to study human transcriptional regulation from functional genomics data


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Thèse: thèse de doctorat.
Integrated methodologies to study human transcriptional regulation from functional genomics data
Parisi F.
Naef F.
Détails de l'institution
Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Faculté de biologie et de médecine Université de Lausanne UNIL - Bugnon Rue du Bugnon 21 - bureau 4111 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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REROID:R004988693 ill.
Abstract :
The human body is composed of a huge number of cells acting together in a concerted manner. The current understanding is that proteins perform most of the necessary activities in keeping a cell alive. The DNA, on the other hand, stores the information on how to produce the different proteins in the genome. Regulating gene transcription is the first important step that can thus affect the life of a cell, modify its functions and its responses to the environment. Regulation is a complex operation that involves specialized proteins, the transcription factors. Transcription factors (TFs) can bind to DNA and activate the processes leading to the expression of genes into new proteins. Errors in this process may lead to diseases. In particular, some transcription factors have been associated with a lethal pathological state, commonly known as cancer, associated with uncontrolled cellular proliferation, invasiveness of healthy tissues and abnormal responses to stimuli. Understanding cancer-related regulatory programs is a difficult task, often involving several TFs interacting together and influencing each other's activity.
This Thesis presents new computational methodologies to study gene regulation. In addition we present applications of our methods to the understanding of cancer-related regulatory programs.
The understanding of transcriptional regulation is a major challenge. We address this difficult question combining computational approaches with large collections of heterogeneous experimental data. In detail, we design signal processing tools to recover transcription factors binding sites on the DNA from genome-wide surveys like chromatin immunoprecipitation assays on tiling arrays (ChIP-chip). We then use the localization about the binding of TFs to explain expression levels of regulated genes. In this way we identify a regulatory synergy between two TFs, the oncogene C-MYC and SP1. C-MYC and SP1 bind preferentially at promoters and when SP1 binds next to C-NIYC on the DNA, the nearby gene is strongly expressed. The association between the two TFs at promoters is reflected by the binding sites conservation across mammals, by the permissive underlying chromatin states 'it represents an important control mechanism involved in cellular proliferation, thereby involved in cancer.
Secondly, we identify the characteristics of TF estrogen receptor alpha (hERa) target genes and we study the influence of hERa in regulating transcription. hERa, upon hormone estrogen signaling, binds to DNA to regulate transcription of its targets in concert with its co-factors. To overcome the scarce experimental data about the binding sites of other TFs that may interact with hERa, we conduct in silico analysis of the sequences underlying the ChIP sites using the collection of position weight matrices (PWMs) of hERa partners, TFs FOXA1 and SP1. We combine ChIP-chip and ChIP-paired-end-diTags (ChIP-pet) data about hERa binding on DNA with the sequence information to explain gene expression levels in a large collection of cancer tissue samples and also on studies about the response of cells to estrogen. We confirm that hERa binding sites are distributed anywhere on the genome. However, we distinguish between binding sites near promoters and binding sites along the transcripts. The first group shows weak binding of hERa and high occurrence of SP1 motifs, in particular near estrogen responsive genes. The second group shows strong binding of hERa and significant correlation between the number of binding sites along a gene and the strength of gene induction in presence of estrogen. Some binding sites of the second group also show presence of FOXA1, but the role of this TF still needs to be investigated. Different mechanisms have been proposed to explain hERa-mediated induction of gene expression. Our work supports the model of hERa activating gene expression from distal binding sites by interacting with promoter bound TFs, like SP1. hERa has been associated with survival rates of breast cancer patients, though explanatory models are still incomplete: this result is important to better understand how hERa can control gene expression.
Thirdly, we address the difficult question of regulatory network inference. We tackle this problem analyzing time-series of biological measurements such as quantification of mRNA levels or protein concentrations. Our approach uses the well-established penalized linear regression models where we impose sparseness on the connectivity of the regulatory network. We extend this method enforcing the coherence of the regulatory dependencies: a TF must coherently behave as an activator, or a repressor on all its targets. This requirement is implemented as constraints on the signs of the regressed coefficients in the penalized linear regression model. Our approach is better at reconstructing meaningful biological networks than previous methods based on penalized regression. The method is tested on the DREAM2 challenge of reconstructing a five-genes/TFs regulatory network obtaining the best performance in the "undirected signed excitatory" category.
Thus, these bioinformatics methods, which are reliable, interpretable and fast enough to cover large biological dataset, have enabled us to better understand gene regulation in humans.
Création de la notice
24/06/2010 8:31
Dernière modification de la notice
20/08/2019 15:18
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