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Quantitative analysis of polycomb response elements (PREs) at identical genomic locations distinguishes contributions of PRE sequence and genomic environment

Helena Okulski1, Birgit Druck12, Sheetal Bhalerao13 and Leonie Ringrose1*

Author Affiliations

1 IMBA, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology GmBH, Dr. Bohr-Gasse 3, 1030 Vienna, Austria

2 Roche Austria GmBH, Clinical Operations, Engelhorngasse 3, 1211 Vienna, Austria

3 Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

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Epigenetics & Chromatin 2011, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1756-8935-4-4

Published: 16 March 2011



Polycomb/Trithorax response elements (PREs) are cis-regulatory elements essential for the regulation of several hundred developmentally important genes. However, the precise sequence requirements for PRE function are not fully understood, and it is also unclear whether these elements all function in a similar manner. Drosophila PRE reporter assays typically rely on random integration by P-element insertion, but PREs are extremely sensitive to genomic position.


We adapted the ΦC31 site-specific integration tool to enable systematic quantitative comparison of PREs and sequence variants at identical genomic locations. In this adaptation, a miniwhite (mw) reporter in combination with eye-pigment analysis gives a quantitative readout of PRE function. We compared the Hox PRE Frontabdominal-7 (Fab-7) with a PRE from the vestigial (vg) gene at four landing sites. The analysis revealed that the Fab-7 and vg PREs have fundamentally different properties, both in terms of their interaction with the genomic environment at each site and their inherent silencing abilities. Furthermore, we used the ΦC31 tool to examine the effect of deletions and mutations in the vg PRE, identifying a 106 bp region containing a previously predicted motif (GTGT) that is essential for silencing.


This analysis showed that different PREs have quantifiably different properties, and that changes in as few as four base pairs have profound effects on PRE function, thus illustrating the power and sensitivity of ΦC31 site-specific integration as a tool for the rapid and quantitative dissection of elements of PRE design.