Computational Discovery of Transcriptional Regulatory Modules in Fungal Ribosome Biogenesis Genes Reveals Novel Sequence and Function Patterns

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Plos ONE


Geisel School of Medicine

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Department of Biological Sciences


Genes involved in ribosome biogenesis and assembly (RBA) are responsible for ribosome formation. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, their transcription is regulated by two dissimilar DNA motifs. We were interested in analyzing conservation and divergence of RBA transcription regulation machinery throughout fungal evolution. We have identified orthologs of S. cerevisiaeRBA genes in 39 species across fungal phylogeny and searched upstream regions of these gene sets for DNA sequences significantly similar to S. cerevisiae RBA regulatory motifs. In addition to confirming known motif arrangements comprising two different motifs in a set of S. cerevisiae close relatives or two instances of the same motif (that we refer to as modules), we have also discovered novel modules in a group of fungi closely related to Neurospora crassa. Despite a single nucleotide difference between consensus sequences of RBA motifs, modules associated with S, cerevisiae group and N. crassa group displayed consistently different characteristics with respect to preferred module organization and several other module properties. For a given species, we have found a correlation between the configuration of the RBA module and significant enrichment in a set of specific Gene Ontology biological processes. We have identified several likely new candidates for a role in ribosome biogenesis in S. cerevisiae based on the combined evidence of RBA module presence in the upstream regions, functional annotation information and microarray expression profiles. We believe that this approach will be useful in terms of generating hypotheses about functional roles of genes for which only fragmentary data from a single source are available.