Nat. Biotechnol. 36 (6) 521-529 [2018-07-00; online 2018-05-21]
No existing method to characterize transcription factor (TF) binding to DNA allows genome-wide measurement of all TF-binding activity in cells. Here we present a massively parallel protein activity assay, active TF identification (ATI), that measures the DNA-binding activity of all TFs in cell or tissue extracts. ATI is based on electrophoretic separation of protein-bound DNA sequences from a highly complex DNA library and subsequent mass-spectrometric identification of the DNA-bound proteins. We applied ATI to four mouse tissues and mouse embryonic stem cells and found that, in a given tissue or cell type, a small set of TFs, which bound to only ∼10 distinct motifs, displayed strong DNA-binding activity. Some of these TFs were found in all cell types, whereas others were specific TFs known to determine cell fate in the analyzed tissue or cell type. We also show that a small number of TFs determined the accessible chromatin landscape of a cell, suggesting that gene regulatory logic may be simpler than previously appreciated.
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