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Systematic determination of genetic network architecture


Technologies to measure whole-genome mRNA abundances1,2,3 and methods to organize and display such data4,5,6,7,8,9,10 are emerging as valuable tools for systems-level exploration of transcriptional regulatory networks. For instance, it has been shown that mRNA data from 118 genes, measured at several time points in the developing hindbrain of mice, can be hierarchically clustered into various patterns (or 'waves') whose members tend to participate in common processes5. We have previously shown that hierarchical clustering can group together genes whose cis-regulatory elements are bound by the same proteins in vivo6. Hierarchical clustering has also been used to organize genes into hierarchical dendograms on the basis of their expression across multiple growth conditions7. The application of Fourier analysis to synchronized yeast mRNA expression data has identified cell-cycle periodic genes, many of which have expected cis-regulatory elements8. Here we apply a systematic set of statistical algorithms, based on whole-genome mRNA data, partitional clustering and motif discovery, to identify transcriptional regulatory sub-networks in yeast—without any a priori knowledge of their structure or any assumptions about their dynamics. This approach uncovered new regulons (sets of co-regulated genes) and their putative cis-regulatory elements. We used statistical characterization of known regulons and motifs to derive criteria by which we infer the biological significance of newly discovered regulons and motifs. Our approach holds promise for the rapid elucidation of genetic network architecture in sequenced organisms in which little biology is known.

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Figure 1: Top periodic clusters, their motifs and overall distribution in all clusters.
Figure 2: 'Non-periodic' clusters, their motifs and overall distribution in all clusters.
Figure 3: The distribution of a particular motif within the upstream region of its ORFs.


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We thank D. Lockhart and L. Wodicka for support, and B. Gewurz, V. Mootha, S. Tavazoie, M. Tavazoie and members of the Church lab, especially P. Estep, R. Mitra, B. Cohen, J. Johnson, M. Bulyk and J. Aach, for discussions and critical readings of the manuscript. This work was supported by the US Department of Energy (grant DE-FG02-87-ER60565), the office of Naval Research and DARPA (grant N00014-97-1-0865), the Lipper Foundation and Hoechst Marion Roussel.

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Correspondence to George M. Church.

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Tavazoie, S., Hughes, J., Campbell, M. et al. Systematic determination of genetic network architecture. Nat Genet 22, 281–285 (1999).

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