Recent large-scale genomics efforts to characterize the cis-regulatory sequences that orchestrate genome-wide expression patterns have produced impressive catalogues of putative regulatory elements. Most of these sequences have not been functionally tested, and our limited understanding of the non-coding genome prevents us from predicting which sequences are bona fide cis-regulatory elements. Recently, massively parallel reporter assays (MPRAs) have been deployed to measure the activity of putative cis-regulatory sequences in several biological contexts, each with specific advantages and distinct limitations. We developed LV-MPRA, a novel lentiviral-based, massively parallel reporter gene assay, to study the function of genome-integrated regulatory elements in any mammalian cell type; thus, making it possible to apply MPRAs in more biologically relevant contexts. We measured the activity of 2,600 sequences in U87 glioblastoma cells and human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) and explored how regulatory activity is encoded in DNA sequence. We demonstrate that LV-MPRA can be applied to estimate the effects of local DNA sequence and regional chromatin on regulatory activity. Our data reveal that primary DNA sequence features, such as GC content and dinucleotide composition, accurately distinguish sequences with high activity from sequences with low activity in a full chromosomal context, and may also function in combination with different transcription factor binding sites to determine cell type specificity. We conclude that LV-MPRA will be an important tool for identifying cis-regulatory elements and stimulating new understanding about how the non-coding genome encodes information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e16
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017


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