Identifying functional single nucleotide polymorphisms in the human CArGome

Craig C. Benson, Qian Zhou, Xiaochun Long, Joseph M. Miano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Regulatory SNPs (rSNPs) reside primarily within the nonprotein coding genome and are thought to disturb normal patterns of gene expression by altering DNA binding of transcription factors. Nevertheless, despite the explosive rise in SNP association studies, there is little information as to the function of rSNPs in human disease. Serum response factor (SRF) is a widely expressed DNA-binding transcription factor that has variable affinity to at least 1,216 permutations of a 10 bp transcription factor binding site (TFBS) known as the CArG box. We developed a robust in silico bioinformatics screening method to evaluate sequences around RefSeq genes for conserved CArG boxes. Utilizing a predetermined phastCons threshold score, we identified 8,252 strand-specific CArGs within an 8 kb window around the transcription start site of 5,213 genes, including all previously defined SRF target genes. We then interrogated this CArG dataset for the presence of previously annotated common polymorphisms. We found a total of 118 unique CArG boxes harboring a SNP within the 10 bp CArG sequence and 1,130 CArG boxes with SNPs located just outside the CArG element. Gel shift and luciferase reporter assays validated SRF binding and functional activity of several new CArG boxes. Importantly, SNPs within or just outside the CArG box often resulted in altered SRF binding and activity. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a powerful approach to computationally define rSNPs in the human CArGome and provide a foundation for similar analyses of other TFBS. Such information may find utility in genetic association studies of human disease where little insight is known regarding the functionality of rSNPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1048
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Genomics
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioinformatics
  • Carg box
  • Serum response factor
  • Transcription factor binding site

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics


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