[Frontiers in Bioscience E5, 785-797, January 1, 2013]

MotifOrganizer: a scalable model-based motif clustering tool for mammalian genomes

Zhaohui S. Qin1,2,3, Misha Bilenky4, Gang Su5, Steven J. M. Jones4

1Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta GA 30322, USA, 2Department of Biomedical Informatics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta GA 30322, USA. 3Center for Comprehensive Informatics, Emory University, Atlanta GA 30322, USA. 4British Columbia Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 4E6, Canada.5Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI 48109, USA


1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Material and Methods
3.1. Input Data
3.2. BMCES
3.3. MotifOrganizer
3.4. Distance-based clustering approaches
3.5. Quality and uncertainty measures
3.6. Clustering accuracy
3.7. Motif matching tools
4. Results
4.3. cisRED
5. Discussion
6. Acknowledgement
7. References


Assembling a comprehensive catalog of all transcription factors (TFs) and the genes that they regulate (regulon) is important for understanding gene regulation. The sequence-specific conserved binding profiles of TFs can be characterized from whole genome sequences with phylogenetic approaches, and a large number of such profiles have been released. Effective mining of these data sources could reveal novel functional elements computationally. Due to the variability of the binding sites, it is necessary to generalize profiles pertinent to the same TF by clustering. The summarized familial profile is effective in identifying unknown binding sites, thus lead to gene co-regulation prediction. Here we report MotifOrganizer, a scalable model-based clustering algorithm designed for grouping motifs identified from large scale comparative genomics studies on mammalian species. The new algorithm allows grouping of motifs with variable widths and a novel two-stage operation scheme further increases the scalability. MotifOrgainzer demonstrated favorable performance comparing to distance-based and single-stage model-based clustering tools on simulated data. Tests on approximately 150k motifs from the cisRED human database demonstrated that MotifOrganizer can effectively cluster whole genome sets of mammalian motifs.


Assembling a comprehensive catalog of all transcription factors (TFs) and the genes that they regulate--regulon is important in understanding how gene expression is regulated. An important step towards achieving this goal involves identifying the regulatory elements that are bound by TFs. These regulatory elements, also referred to as motifs, are short DNA segments typically 6 to 30 bp in length. Success in finding these regulatory elements would contribute to our understanding of TF-regulon relationships by providing insight into the mechanism of transcriptional regulation. The rapid accumulation of completely sequenced genomes, the combination of ab initio motif searching algorithms, and comparative genomics strategies constitutes a powerful approach for identifying novel regulatory elements (1-5). Several recent studies carried out genome-wide motif discovery using sequence specificity and phylogenetic conservation information to identify motifs that are conserved at a higher-than-expected rate in non-coding regions (6-10). Many online databases such as TRANSFAC (11) and JASPAR (12), compiled large volumes of annotated motifs.

In one such study, Robertson et al. described the construction of cisRED, a database that contains predictions from whole-genome discovery of cis-regulatory elements in mammals and other eukaryotes (9). Applying a series of sophisticated bioinformatics analyses, including multiple motif discovery methods, Robertson et al. cataloged more than 200,000 motifs in their database (http://www.cisred.org). Many of the motifs in the cisRED database are believed to be regulatory elements that play vital functional roles because they occur in multiple promoter regions of orthologous genes across several vertebrate species. As the majority of enriched modules in cisRED remain unclassified, such a large collection constitutes a great resource for mining novel biological knowledge.

In particular, since regulatory proteins bind to DNA in a sequence specific manner (13, 14), similarity in motif sequences discovered in promoter regions of different genes is indicative of co-regulation (5, 15, 16). A natural follow-up of large-scale motif discovery efforts like cisRED is to cluster similar motifs in the database into groups. This is a critical step in translating the conserved motifs identified by comparative genomics methods into a putative model of regulatory elements, which not only represent functional aggregation but can also be further utilized for unknown function site prediction (17, 18). As Robertson et al. pointed out, the large size of mammalian genomes makes it challenging to conduct such a cisRED-type analysis (9). This is especially true when attempting to cluster the hundreds of thousands of motifs from databases like cisRED. Most of the available clustering approaches used for motif clustering are pair-wise distance-based (19), which are conceptually simple and readily available for data sets of moderate size. However, performing distance-based clustering on a large number of motifs requires a huge pair-wise distance matrix which is extremely costly to compute and maintain. Such computational jobs can only be performed on servers with a large amount of memory.

The goal of this project is to develop an efficient clustering strategy that can analyze a large motif dataset (such as the motif collections from the cisRED database) on a typical laptop computer. To do that, the clustering strategy must be highly scalable. Given the limitation of the distance-based clustering methods, we chose the alternative model-based clustering strategy. Model-based motif clustering methods (20, 21) assume that motifs in a cluster share the same product multinomial distribution in nucleotide composition. Clustering is achieved by calculating the probability of each motif belonging to each of the existing clusters. Therefore, no explicit pair-wise distance calculation between all pairs of motifs is needed. Consequently, model-based methods are more scalable than distanced-based approaches in practice. More importantly, distance-based approaches treat the input motifs as bona fide patterns, thus ignoring uncertainty in the input. In contrast, model-based approaches explicitly model the uncertainty using probability distribution, which is a more sensible way for representing the highly-variable DNA regulatory elements.

Previously we developed Bayesian Motif Cluster (BMC), a model-based clustering approach named and successfully applied it to investigate co-regulation in bacterial species including Escherichia coli (20). We discovered both novel regulatory elements and proposed new hypotheses on regulatory relationships. In this manuscript, we report the development of a new algorithm called Bayesian Motif Cluster for Eukaryotic Species (BMCES), as well as a two-stage, divide-conquer-combine clustering scheme, MotifOrganizer. The new algorithm and scheme are better suited to mammalian applications than BMC because they allow clusters, as well as a motif and the cluster that it joins, to have different widths. The two-stage scheme adopted by MotifOrganizer can increase the scalability of BMC by three orders of magnitude under the same computation environment. As a result, MotifOrganizer is able to cluster motif collections in the hundreds of thousands, as is typically produced from the results of motif identification efforts conducted by whole genome comparative genomics methods on mammalian species. The overall operation scheme of our methods is illustrated in Figure 1.


3.1. Input Data

The basic units in the input data for BMCES or MotifOrganizer are motifs, each of which is a stack of aligned short DNA sequences that had been identified by multiple, probabilistic, de novo comparative genomics motif discovery methods (3, 22). For example, cisRED motifs were identified in ~2kb promoter regions of sets of orthologous genes in multiple vertebrates species (9) (http://www.cisred.org). Each sequence in a discovered motif is assumed to be a phylogenetic counterpart of the other sequences. As a special case, we allowed a motif to contain as few as one sequence. These motifs are represented by position- specific weight matrices (PWMs) in our model-based methods, which are used to calculate Bayes ratios for iterative cluster assignments. See Figure 2 for an illustration of motifs and motif clusters.

3.2. BMCES

BMC (20) assumes that motifs that belong to a cluster follow the same product multinomial distribution (23), and implements a Gibbs sampler procedure (24, 25) to iteratively infer cluster membership. By using only the middle part of each motif, the original algorithm allows the width of input motifs to be different, but requires that all clusters have the same width. Because the widths of mammalian transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) vary substantially (from 6 bp to >30 bp in JASPAR and TRANSFAC), such a constraint is too restrictive for clustering mammalian motifs. Recently, Jensen and Liu proposed an extended Bayesian model that treats cluster widths as random variables (26). We adopted an alternative strategy in BMCES by allowing motifs and clusters with different widths to be grouped together. Our strategy allows flexible alignment between motifs and clusters. Specifically, during the process that reassigns motifs to clusters, if a cluster's width is larger than a motif's width, we use a sliding window whose width is equal to the motif width to determine which part of the cluster pattern best fits the motif, and use this best match to calculate the likelihood that the motif will join the cluster. Conversely, when the motif is wider than the cluster, we use a sliding window with a width equal to the cluster width to determine which part of the motif best fits the cluster, and use only this subset of the motif to calculate the fit likelihood for this cluster. After a cluster has been identified as accommodating a motif, if the cluster width is smaller than the motif width, then only the aligned part of the motif is added to the cluster, and the rest of the motif is removed from consideration. Conversely, if the cluster width is greater than the motif width, then the aligned cluster pattern will be trimmed to the motif width, and only the part that aligned to the added motif is kept. Such a strategy allows us to generate clusters of different widths, and is able to group motifs of different widths into a common cluster.

3.3. MotifOrganizer

Because genome-wide collections of mammalian motifs contain hundreds of thousands of motifs which is too voluminous for BMC to cluster, we sought to increase BMC's scalability while retaining its favorable performance. To accomplish this, we devised a novel, two-stage, divide-conquer-combine scheme (Figure 1). In the first stage, we first partition the motif set into subsets, either randomly or by assigning motifs of different widths to different subsets. After partitioning, BMCES algorithm is applied independently to each subset. We then combine all output clusters from this stage to form a new input motif set, in which each input motif becomes a motif cluster from the first-stage output. Since both motifs and motif clusters are represented by PWMs, the BMCES algorithm could again be applied to group these first-stage clusters into final clusters. Because the number of clusters output by the first stage clustering is typically much smaller than the total number of original motifs (log n), the overall demand on computer resources is substantially reduced, making the two-stage strategy highly scalable. Since clustering runs in the first stage can be carried out independently, it is straightforward to implement MotifOrganizer to take advantage of the increasingly available parallel computing environment, which will further reduce the computation time.

From our experience, MotifOrganizer converges rather rapidly. Typically, 100,000 reassignments (100 cycles for a total of 1,000 motifs or 50 cycles for a total of 2,000 motifs) produce satisfactory results. As few as 10,000 reassignments sometimes produce stable results. To avoid being trapped in a local mode, which is a common problem for complex sample spaces, one can choose to run multiple independent chains in MotifOrganizer (simply by specifying an input parameter), each with different initial setting, to better explore the entire sample space. We chose the result that achieves the highest posterior likelihood among all the chains as the final reported clustering result.

3.4. Distance-based clustering approaches

For comparison purposes, we also ran distance-based clustering methods on the JASPAR and TRANSFAC data. There are many existing distance-based clustering methods, such as the most popular hierarchical clustering and the K-means clustering. CLARA, or Clustering Large Applications (27) is designed to handle larger datasets than the classical PAM (Partitioning Around Medoids) method. CLARA is a two-step procedure, in the first step, a sample is drawn from the original dataset and then PAM is applied on the sample; in the second step, each of the un-sampled data point is assigned to its nearest medoid. The merit of the clustering is measured by the average distance between each object and its medoid. The CLARA is often repeated multiple times and the best clustering result is reported as the final outcome.

3.5. Quality and uncertainty measures

Model-based clustering methods allow formal statistical inference to be performed. BMCES and MotifOrganizer take advantage of this fact to produce a set of significance measures. One measure is the ratio of the probability that all motifs follow the same product multinomial distribution versus the probability that each motif follow its own. This serves as a measure of the cluster's compactness. A higher ratio indicates that individual motif sequences in a cluster more closely resemble each other. In BMCES and MotifOrganizer, since the widths of motifs may differ between clusters, we define normalized Bayes ratio (NBR) for a cluster by dividing B by the width of the cluster. BMC also calculates and reports the posterior assignment probability (PAP) for each motif in a cluster. This is the probability that a motif belongs to its current cluster, conditional on the assignments of all other motifs. A higher PAP indicates a better motif-to-cluster fit. These quality measurements can be used to prioritize clustering results. By sorting clusters from the most significant to the least significant according to NBR, one can focus on the top ones for experimental validation. One can also remove loosely fit motifs from its cluster if its PAP is lower than a pre-specified threshold. NBR and PAP also provide measures of uncertainties of clusters and clustering assignment of motifs.

3.6. Clustering accuracy

To evaluate and compare the performance of different clustering approaches, we adopted the Adjusted Rand Index (ARI) (28, 29), which measures the degree of agreement between two different partitions of multiple objects. It is able to provide an objective assessment of the closeness between our clustering result and the true motif family membership. The values of ARI lie between 0 and 1, with a higher value indicating better agreement. Among many statistics proposed, Milligan and Cooper recommended ARI as the measure of agreement based on extensive empirical studies (29). The detailed formula on how to calculate ARI can be found in the Supplementary material of Qin et al. (30). Since model-based clustering is not a deterministic procedure, results from different runs might be slightly different, We therefore measured the performance of all model-based clustering algorithms by repeating the clustering procedure 100 times and taking the average.

3.7. Motif matching tools

To annotate the clustering results, we compared each cluster to motif models in JASPAR 4 (12) and TRANSFAC 9.3 (11) databases. We used MatCompare (31) and MACO (32) to assess the similarity of motif pairs. For MatCompare, we used the default distance measure, which is the minimum Kulback-Leibler (KL) divergence between matched fragments in two motifs; motifs with divergence per column less than 1.0 are regarded as very similar. For MACO, we determined the threshold value for the matching correlation coefficient scores based on the empirical distribution obtained from 3000 random matrices.


In order to evaluate the performance of MotifOrganizer comprehensively, we tested it on three different datasets: we first compared the performance of our new BMCES algorithm with BMC in a dataset containing 1128 motifs from 59 TF binding site (TFBS) models selected from the JASPAR 4 database (12). We then evaluated the advantages of using the two-stage clustering method motifOrganizer over the BMCES algorithm using 5452 motifs from 319 TFBS models selected from the TRANSFAC 9.3 database (11). Finally, we applied motifOrganizer to ~30,000 motifs selected from the cisRED human v.2 database (9).

In the first two motif sets, since the group membership (motif model) of each motif is known, we were able to directly assess how accurate the model-based approach could recapitulate the partitioning in the input model sets, and to characterize the performance of different clustering algorithms. With the third motif set, we compared the clustering result to known motif models from JASPAR and TRANSFAC databases. Since model-based clustering is not a deterministic procedure, results from different runs might be slightly different. Given this, we measured the performance of all model-based clustering algorithms by repeating the clustering procedure 100 times and taking the average. Clustering performance is measured by ARI.


We compiled a set of 1128 motifs that represented 59 mammalian TFBS models for which individual sequences were available from the JASPAR 4 database (12). Motif widths ranged from 5 to 22 bp, and the number of sequences in each model ranged from 3 to 48, averaging ~19. Clustering was performed using BMCES, the maximum allowable width difference between a motif and a cluster is set to be 2 bp (we used the same setting throughout this study). For comparison, we also tested an advanced distance-based clustering method CLARA (Kaufman and Rousseeuw, 1990). We used the edit distance similarity metric and determined the number of clusters by doing runs over a range of target cluster numbers and selecting the result set that had the maximum average silhouette widths as recommended by Kaufman and Rousseeuw (27). We found that BMCES achieved a higher ARI than CLARA (0.55 versus 0.44) and returned a number of clusters that was closer (54 vs. 34) to the number of input TFBS models--59. BMCES also required less than a third of the memory, and was at least three times faster, depending on how many CLARA runs were used to identify the optimal solution.

Next we took advantage of the quality measures produced by model-based clustering and performed a "cleanup" on the clustering result. To be specific, we used the normalized Bayes ratio (NBR), which reflects a cluster's tightness; and the posterior assignment probability (PAP), which measures how well a motif fits the cluster to which it has been assigned. Further details about these measures can be found in the Method section. Using filtering thresholds of NBR = 0 and PAP = 0.5, On average, 835 (74%) motifs were retained after cleanup, Using filtering thresholds of NBR = 0 and PAP = 0.5, the average ARI improved from 0.55 to 0.71, while under the same conditions, CLARA showed a more modest ARI increase, from 0.44 to 0.51. These results suggested that NBR and PAP are indeed effective quality indicators and can be used to prioritize clustering results for future experimental validation.

Figure 3 illustrates the clustering performance and relationships between TFBS models and structural classes. Its membership map shows two types of clustering errors: 'combining' errors (indicated by green cell), in which motifs that belong to different TFBS models were clustered together, and 'splitting' errors (indicated by blue cell), in which motifs belonging to same TFBS model were assigned to different clusters. Combining errors were ~2.5 times more frequent than splitting errors. It is also evident from the two plots that the result obtained after cleanup (Figure 3B) indeed shows better clustering quality than before (Figure 3A).

At least two reasons may contribute to the fact that combining errors were ~2.5 times more frequent than splitting errors. . First, the model-based algorithm BMC and BMCES are based on is Dirichlet process mixture model which favors small number of clusters and relatively large individual clusters. This may cause more combining errors than splitting errors. Second, the 'gold standard' of JASPAR may be over-specific so that the members of a family can actually be combined together to form a family of higher hierarchy. Nevertheless, the high ARI demonstrates the homogeneity of the clusters and effectiveness of our approach.

Similarities between binding models for structurally related TFs have been summarized by "familial binding profiles" (33-35). Consistent with this, when BMCES's clusters contained motifs from more than one model, the models typically belonged to the same structural class. For example, in the top 15 filtered clusters, which contained more than half of all motifs, three clusters contained motifs from different TF models. One of these clusters was mainly MA0101 (c-REL), MA0105 (p50) and MA01007 (p65) sequences from the REL structural class; another was mainly MA0040 (HFH-1), MA0041 (HFH-2) and MA0047 (HNF-3beta) sequences from the FORKHEAD structural class. At the same time, we expect that sequences for some models may be dispersed across clusters, given that a mixture model (36, 37) or enhanced PWM (38) may better represent variability over binding sequences for a transcription factor than a single PWM.


The second dataset consisted of 5452 motifs from 319 TRANSFAC 9.3 mammalian TFBS models (11). The number of motifs in each model ranged from 1 to 169, averaging 18.5. Motif widths ranged from 6 to 30 bps. Our primary goal was to compare performance between single-stage (BMCES) and two-stage (MotifOrganizer) model-based clustering approaches. Using MotifOrganizer, we first partitioned the whole motif set into disjoint motif subsets by width, then applied BMCES in each subset separately, and concatenated all resulting clusters as input to the second stage clustering. More details about the two-stage scheme can be found in the Method section). Clustering performances measured by average ARI were plotted in Figure 4 and summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Compared to the one-stage approach BMC, one can see that the two-stage approach yielded a higher average ARI (green lines are always on top of the corresponding red lines in Figure 4A), estimated the number of clusters more accurately (green lines are always closer to the x-axis than the corresponding red lines in Figure 4B). In addition, Figure 4 showed that cluster quality improved with increasing threshold values of the two quality measures--NBR and PAP. On the other hand, the memory consumption is about half when using the two-stage scheme, and the computing time of the two-stage clustering scheme is less than one third than that of the regular one-stage clustering approach. Running first stage clustering jobs in parallel will further reduce the running time.

4.3. cisRED

We applied MotifOrganizer to a subset of 29,490 conserved DNA sequence motifs from the cisRED human v.2 database. These motifs had been identified using genome-wide comparative genomics approaches that involved combining results from multiple probabilistic de novo discovery methods (Robertson, et al., 2006). We selected the subset of motifs that had p-values < 0.001 and widths between 6 and 20 bp. We applied MotifOrganizer to this dataset. The partition before the first stage is based on the motif width, such that each subset contains motifs of the same width which ranges from 6 to 20. At the end, a total of 8396 clusters were produced from MotifOrganizer. Among which, 4865 clusters consist of 15330 motifs passed the cleanup step with NBR cutoff of 0 and PAP cutoff of 0.5.

Unlike JASPAR or TRANSFAC, there is no "gold standard" partition of the cisRED motif set. In order to gauge the effectiveness of MotifOrganizer, we compared all 4865 filtered clusters to a large set of high-quality known motif models: 108 models from JASPAR CORE, and 398 models from TRANSFAC 9.3. We used two published comparison tools, MatCompare (31) and MACO (32), to identify "match" between predicted motif clusters and those known motif models. For MatCompare, a "match" is called if the default distance measure, Kulback-Leibler (KL) distance between the PWMs of two motifs is less than 1. For MACO, we call two motifs "match" each other if their correlation coefficient score is close to 1. In the end, MatCompare identified 558 matches between predicted clusters and known motif models (one cluster may map to multiple motif models); MACO produced 753 matches. 171 matches were identified by both methods. Table 3 contains five such matches. The full list of all matches identified by both MatCompare and MACO, with motif logo plots (39), can be found at our website. Among all 4865 clusters identified by MotifOrganizer, 660 (14%) were similar to one of 506 known motif models using at least one method Among all the 506 known motif models, 294 (58.1%) matched to at least one predicted cluster.

We then compared our clusters with JASPAR PHYLOFACTS motifs. This database consists of 174 conserved motifs identified in a large scale mammalian comparative genomics study (10). MatCompare identified 167 matches and MACO identified 166. Seventy matches were identified by both methods. Table 4 contains five such matches. The full list of all matches identified by both MatCompare and MACO, with motif logo plots, can be found at our website. Of the 174 PHYLOFACT motifs, 108 (62.1%) matched at least one predicted cluster.

We are encouraged that many of the predicted motif clusters identified by MotifOrganizer match to known motif models. And more than half of the known motif models match to at least one of the clusters predicted. We also found that clusters with higher NBR are more likely to match to known motif models in JASPAR CORE, JASPAR PHYLOFACTS or TRANSFAC databases. Of the top 1000 clusters out of 4865 in total, 162 matched to known motif models according to MatCompare, while in clusters 1001 - 2000, 2001 - 3000, 3001 - 4000, 4001 - 4865, only 28, 25, 17 and 7 clusters matched to known motif models. MACO results were similar (data not shown). This suggests that clusters with higher quality scores were more likely to be bona fide functional elements. However, some highly ranked clusters, and overall more than 80% of all identified clusters, matched no motifs in JASPAR CORE, JASPAR PHYLOFACTS or TRANSFAC databases. Table 5 contains motif patterns from 12 such clusters. Most positions in these motifs were highly conserved, and many of the motifs were palindromic, which is typical of homodimer DNA binding proteins. This suggests that these novel motifs may represent binding sites for uncharacterized TFs that mediate expression levels of the genes with which they are associated.


Large amount of evolutionarily conserved DNA elements has been discovered with fast accumulation of sequenced genomes. Build on the hypothesis that sequence similarity implies functional conservation binding by the same regulatory protein, clustering these motifs will lead to the translation of putative elements into regulatory information. It has been shown that the ability of modeling uncertainties explicitly give model-based clustering approaches advantages over distance-based approaches. However, existing model-based approaches such as BMC are unable to handle large scale motif sets collected from mammalian species on a regular personal computer. In this study, we proposed a novel two-stage model-based algorithm for clustering motifs identified from mammalian species genome-wide. Our new algorithm allows motifs of variable different widths to be clustered together and is capable of handling large scale input motif sets. Comparison studies indicated that our new approach retained and surpassed the clustering accuracy achieved by the single-stage model-based approaches, while reducing computation time and memory requirements to levels that permit clustering genome-wide sets of mammalian motifs on today's commodity computer systems. To further demonstrate MotifOrganizer's scalability, we tested it on 150K motifs from the cisRED human v.2 database. Using the default parameter setting, the entire two-stage clustering process took about four days to complete on a regular shared cluster computer server, and the peak memory consumption was only about 250MB. The scalability of MotifOrganizer demonstrated in this study is quite promising. As the number of cis regulatory regions may currently be underestimated, we anticipate a persistent need for highly scalable clustering tools to analyze the large motif sets.

In BMCES and motifOrganizer, we employed the same probability model used in BMC, which models motif columns as multinomial with Dirichlet priors. Under this model, nucleotide counts from each species are treated identically as independent observations. However, from the point of view of evolution theory, aligned sequences from closely-related species, like human and chimpanzee, are far from independent. A more desirable model should take into account of the phylogenetic distances among species and weigh the contributions from different species accordingly. Various evolution models and techniques traced back to Felsenstein (40) may be applied. We believe such an improved model will enhance the performance of BMCES and motifOrganizer and will be pursued in our future work.

We were encouraged that many of the predicted motif clusters identified by MotifOrganizer were similar to known motif models, that more than half of known motif models tested matched at least one of the predicted clusters, and that highly-ranked clusters were more likely to be similar to known motifs. On the other hand, most of our filtered clusters appeared to differ from cluster patterns reported by previous large-scale studies, and some clusters with high NBR rank matched to no known motif pattern. These results suggest that regulatory motifs are highly diverse and that a substantial number of new regulatory elements have yet to be discovered and validated.

We seek to create a comprehensive catalog of mammalian cis regulatory motifs that, by facilitating dimension reduction and pattern discovery, and so functional annotation, will contribute to understanding modules and networks in mammalian transcriptional regulation. We anticipate improving MotifOrganizer's performance by extending it to include parameters that address more aspects of eukaryotic transcriptional regulation. For example, clustering may be more effective when it integrates additional data types like co-factors, DNA and chromatin structure, and histone modifications. A number of such data types, including mammalian TF binding regions, appear to be cost-effectively characterizable by ChIP-Seq technologies (41-44). As for ChIP-chip (45, 46) and other types of ChIP-sequencing (references 1-10 in (44)), motifs can be identified in bound or enriched regions identified from the target genome (47) using newly developed programs such as HMS (48). However, approaches that seek to combine motifs from regions identified by ChIP-Seq with deep genome-wide comparative genomics methods are likely to continue to require scalable ways of identifying both conserved motifs and groups of similar motifs. We anticipate that MotifOrganizer and its extensions will serve as an important resource for such work. MotifOrganizer package written in C++ and Perl (source code included) can be freely downloaded from http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~zqin4/motif/.


We are grateful to the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. We thank Dr. Dustin Schones for assistance with MatCompare program. We thank Christian Mehta for critical reading of the manuscript. And we thank Dr. Gordon Robertson and the cisRED team at BCGSC for their help with the cisRED dataset. This work is partially supported by National Institutes of Health grant R01HG005119 (to ZSQ).


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Abbreviations: TF: transcription factor; BMC: Bayesian motif cluster; BMCES: Bayesian motif cluster for eukaryotic species; PWM: position-specific weight matrices; TFBS: transcription factor binding sites; CLARA: clustering large applications; PAM: partition around medoids; NBR: normalized Bayes ratio; PAP: posterior assignment probability; ARI: adjust Rand index

Key Words: Model-based clustering, Transcription factor binding site, Motif, Bayesian, Scalability

Send correspondence to: Zhaohui S. Qin, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, GCR338, 1518 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA, Tel: 404-712-9576, Fax: 404-727-1370, E-mail:zhaohui.qin@emory.edu