Patterns and evolution of ACGT repeat cis-element landscape across four plant genomes

Rajesh Mehrotra, Sachin Sethi, Ipshita Zutshi, Purva Bhalothia, Sandhya Mehrotra
BMC Genomics 2013, 14: 203

BACKGROUND: Transcription factor binding is regulated by several interactions, primarily involving cis-element binding. These binding sites maintain specificity by means of their sequence, and other additional factors such as inter-motif distance and spacer specificity. The ACGT core sequence has been established as a functionally important cis-element which frequently regulates gene expression in synergy with other cis-elements. In this study, we used two monocotyledonous - Oryza sativa and Sorghum bicolor, and two dicotyledonous species - Arabidopsis thaliana and Glycine max to analyze the conservation of co-occurring ACGT core elements in plant promoters with respect to spacer distance between them. Using data generated from Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa, we also identified conserved regions across all spacers and possible conditions regulating gene promoters with multiple ACGT cis-elements.

RESULTS: Our data indicated specific predominant spacer lengths between co-occurring ACGT elements, but these lengths were not universally conserved across all species under analysis. However, the frequency distribution indicated local regions of high correlation among monocots and dicots. Sequence specificity data clearly revealed a preference for G at the first and C at the terminal position of a spacer sequence, suggesting that the G-box motif is the most prevalent for the ACGT class of promoters. Using gene expression databases, we also observed trends suggesting that co-occurring ACGT elements are responsible for gene regulation in response to exogenous stress. Conservation in patterns of ACGT (N) ACGT among orthologous genes also indicated the possibility that emergence of functional significance across species was a result of parallel evolution of these cis-elements.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the importance of ACGT elements has been acknowledged for several plant species, ours is the first study that attempts to compare their occurrence across four species and analyze conservation among them. The apparent preference for particular spacer distances suggest that these motifs might be implicated in important physiological functions which are yet to be identified. Variations in correlation patterns among monocots and dicots might arise out of differences in transcriptional regulation in the two classes. In accordance with literature, we established the involvement of co-occurring ACGT elements in stress responses and showed how this regulation differs with variation in the ACGT (N) ACGT motif. We believe that our study will be an essential resource in determining optimum spacer length and spacer sequence between ACGT elements for promoter design in future.

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