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We have developed a new bioinformatics approach called ECMFinder (Evolutionary Conserved Motif Finder). This program searches for a given DNA motif within the entire genome of one species and uses the gene association information of a potential transcription factor-binding site (TFBS) to screen the homologous regions of a second and third species. If multiple species have this potential TFBS in homologous positions, this program recognizes the identified TFBS as an evolutionary conserved motif (ECM). This program outputs a list of ECMs, which can be uploaded as a Custom Track in the UCSC genome browser and can be visualized along with other available data. The feasibility of this approach was tested by searching the genomes of three mammals (human, mouse and cow) with the DNA-binding motifs of YY1 and CTCF. This program successfully identified many clustered YY1- and CTCF-binding sites that are conserved among these species but were previously undetected. In particular, this program identified CTCF-binding sites that are located close to the Dlk1, Magel2 and Cdkn1c imprinted genes. Individual ChIP experiments confirmed the in vivo binding of the YY1 and CTCF proteins to most of these newly discovered binding sites, demonstrating the feasibility and usefulness of ECMFinder. © 2009 The Author(s).

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Nucleic Acids Research

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