Integrating diverse datasets improves developmental enhancer prediction
Genevieve D. Erwin, Rebecca M. Truty, Dennis Kostka, Katherine S. Pollard, John A. Capra
(Submitted on 27 Sep 2013)
Gene-regulatory enhancers have been identified by many lines of evidence, including evolutionary conservation, regulatory protein binding, chromatin modifications, and DNA sequence motifs. To integrate these different approaches, we developed EnhancerFinder, a novel method for predicting developmental enhancers and their tissue specificity. EnhancerFinder uses a two-step multiple-kernel learning approach to integrate DNA sequence motifs, evolutionary patterns, and thousands of diverse functional genomics datasets from a variety of cell types and developmental stages. We trained EnhancerFinder on hundreds of experimentally verified human developmental enhancers from the VISTA Enhancer Browser, in contrast to histone mark or sequence-based enhancer definitions commonly used. We comprehensively evaluated EnhancerFinder, and found that our integrative approach improves enhancer prediction accuracy over previous approaches that consider a single type of data. Our evaluation highlights the importance of considering information from many tissues when predicting specific types of enhancers. We find that VISTA enhancers active in embryonic heart are easier to predict than enhancers active in several other tissues due to their uniquely high GC content. We applied EnhancerFinder to the entire human genome and predicted 84,301 developmental enhancers and their tissue specificity. These predictions provide specific functional annotations for large amounts of human non-coding DNA, and are significantly enriched near genes with annotated roles in their predicted tissues and hits from genome-wide association studies. We demonstrate the utility of our enhancer predictions by identifying and validating a novel cranial nerve enhancer in the ZEB2 locus. Our genome-wide developmental enhancer predictions will be freely available as a UCSC Genome Browser track.