Discovery and assessment of conserved Pax6 target genes and enhancers

Pedro Coutinho, Sofia Pavlou, Shipra Bhatia, Kevin J Chalmers, Dirk A Kleinjan, Veronica van Heyningen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The characterization of transcriptional networks (TNs) is essential for understanding complex biological phenomena such as development, disease, and evolution. In this study, we have designed and implemented a procedure that combines in silico target screens with zebrafish and mouse validation, in order to identify cis-elements and genes directly regulated by Pax6. We chose Pax6 as the paradigm because of its crucial roles in organogenesis and human disease. We identified over 600 putative Pax6 binding sites and more than 200 predicted direct target genes, conserved in evolution from zebrafish to human and to mouse. This was accomplished using hidden Markov models (HMMs) generated from experimentally validated Pax6 binding sites. A small sample of genes, expressed in the neural lineage, was chosen from the predictions for RNA in situ validation using zebrafish and mouse models. Validation of DNA binding to some predicted cis-elements was also carried out using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and zebrafish reporter transgenic studies. The results show that this combined procedure is a highly efficient tool to investigate the architecture of TNs and constitutes a useful complementary resource to ChIP and expression data sets because of its inherent spatiotemporal independence. We have identified several novel direct targets, including some putative disease genes, among them Foxp2; these will allow further dissection of Pax6 function in development and disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-59
Number of pages11
JournalGenome Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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