Defining the target genes of distal regulatory elements (DREs), such as enhancer, repressors and insulators, is a challenging task. The recently developed Hi-C technology is designed to capture chromosome conformation structure by high-throughput sequencing, and can be potentially used to determine the target genes of DREs. However, Hi-C data are noisy, making it difficult to directly use Hi-C data to identify DRE-target gene relationships. In this study, we show that DREs-gene pairs that are confirmed by Hi-C data are strongly phylogenetic correlated, and have thus developed a method that combines Hi-C read counts with phylogenetic correlation to predict long-range DRE-target gene relationships. Analysis of predicted DRE-target gene pairs shows that genes regulated by large number of DREs tend to have essential functions, and genes regulated by the same DREs tend to be functionally related and co-expressed. In addition, we show with a couple of examples that the predicted target genes of DREs can help explain the causal roles of disease-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms located in the DREs. As such, these predictions will be of importance not only for our understanding of the function of DREs but also for elucidating the causal roles of disease-associated noncoding single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
Lu, Y., Zhou, Y., & Tian, W. (2013). Combining Hi-C data with phylogenetic correlation to predict the target genes of distal regulatory elements in human genome. Nucleic Acids Research, 41(22), 10391–10402. https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkt785