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Lim KH, Ferraris L, Filloux ME, Raphael BJ, Fairbrother WG. Using Positional Distribution to Identify Splicing Elements and Predict pre-mRNA Processing Defects in Human Genes. PNAS 2011 [Epub Jun 17th]

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Ferraris L, Stewart AP, Kang J, Desimone AM, Gemberling M, Tantin D, Fairbrother WG. Combinatorial binding of Transcription Factors in the Pluripotency Control Regions of the Genome. Genome Research 2011 April 28th

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Ferraris L, Stewart AP, Gemberling MP, Reid DC, Lapadula MJ, Thompson WA, Fairbrother WG. Hig-throughput Mapping of Protein Occupancy Identifies Functional Elements without the Restriction of a Candidate Factor Approach. Nucleic Acids Research 2011 Mar;39(6):e33 PMID:21169336

Chang B, Levin J, Thompson WA, Fairbrother WG. High-Throughput Binding Analysis Determines the Binding Specificity of ASF/SF2 on Alternatively Spliced Human pre-mRNAs. Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2009 Dec 16. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 20015017.

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Watkins KH, Stewart A, Fairbrother W. A rapid high-throughput method for mapping ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) on human pre-mRNA. J Vis Exp. 2009 Dec 2;(34). pii: 1622. doi: 10.3791/1622. PubMed PMID: 19956082.

Reid DC, Chang BL, Gunderson SI, Alpert L, Thompson WA, Fairbrother WG. Next-generation SELEX identifies sequence and structural determinants of splicing factor binding in human pre-mRNA sequence. RNA. 2009 Dec;15(12):2385-97. Epub 2009 Oct 27. PubMed PMID: 19861426; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2779669.

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Kang J, Gemberling M, Nakamura M, Whitby FG, Handa H, Fairbrother WG, Tantin D. A general mechanism for transcription regulation by Oct1 and Oct4 in response to genotoxic and oxidative stress. Genes Dev. 2009 Jan 15;23(2):208-22. PubMed PMID: 19171782; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2648538.

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Tantin D, Gemberling M, Callister C, Fairbrother WG. High-throughput biochemical analysis of in vivo location data reveals novel distinct classes of POU5F1(Oct4)/DNA complexes. Genome Res. 2008 Apr;18(4):631-9. Epub 2008 Jan 22. Erratum in: Genome Res. 2009 Apr;19(4):690. Fairbrother, William [corrected to Fairbrother, William G]. PubMed PMID: 18212089; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2279250.

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Fairbrother WG, Lipscombe D. Repressing the neuron within. Bioessays. 2008 Jan;30(1):1-4. Review. Erratum in: Bioessays. 2009 Apr;31(4):487. Fairbrother, Will [corrected to Fairbrother, William G]. PubMed PMID: 18081004; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2593115.

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Single nucleotide polymorphism-based validation of exonic splicing enhancers.

Fairbrother WG, Holste D, Burge CB, Sharp PA.


Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Because deleterious alleles arising from mutation are filtered by natural selection, mutations that create such alleles will be underrepresented in the set of common genetic variation existing in a population at any given time. Here, we describe an approach based on this idea called VERIFY (variant elimination reinforces functionality), which can be used to assess the extent of natural selection acting on an oligonucleotide motif or set of motifs predicted to have biological activity. As an application of this approach, we analyzed a set of 238 hexanucleotides previously predicted to have exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) activity in human exons using the relative enhancer and silencer classification by unanimous enrichment (RESCUE)-ESE method. Aligning the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the public human SNP database to the chimpanzee genome allowed inference of the direction of the mutations that created present-day SNPs. Analyzing the set of SNPs that overlap RESCUE-ESE hexamers, we conclude that nearly one-fifth of the mutations that disrupt predicted ESEs have been eliminated by natural selection (odds ratio = 0.82 +/- 0.05). This selection is strongest for the predicted ESEs that are located near splice sites. Our results demonstrate a novel approach for quantifying the extent of natural selection acting on candidate functional motifs and also suggest certain features of mutations/SNPs, such as proximity to the splice site and disruption or alteration of predicted ESEs, that should be useful in identifying variants that might cause a biological phenotype.


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RESCUE-ESE identifies candidate exonic splicing enhancers in vertebrate exons.

Fairbrother WG, Yeo GW, Yeh R, Goldstein P, Mawson M, Sharp PA, Burge CB.

Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

A typical gene contains two levels of information: a sequence that encodes a particular protein and a host of other signals that are necessary for the correct expression of the transcript. While much attention has been focused on the effects of sequence variation on the amino acid sequence, variations that disrupt gene processing signals can dramatically impact gene function. A variation that disrupts an exonic splicing enhancer (ESE), for example, could cause exon skipping which would result in the exclusion of an entire exon from the mRNA transcript. RESCUE-ESE, a computational approach used in conjunction with experimental validation, previously identified 238 candidate ESE hexamers in human genes. The RESCUE-ESE method has recently been implemented in three additional species: mouse, zebrafish and pufferfish. Here we describe an online ESE analysis tool ( that annotates RESCUE-ESE hexamers in vertebrate exons and can be used to predict splicing phenotypes by identifying sequence changes that disrupt or alter predicted ESEs.


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Predictive identification of exonic splicing enhancers in human genes.

Fairbrother WG, Yeh RF, Sharp PA, Burge CB.


Department of Biology, Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Specific short oligonucleotide sequences that enhance pre-mRNA splicing when present in exons, termed exonic splicing enhancers (ESEs), play important roles in constitutive and alternative splicing. A computational method, RESCUE-ESE, was developed that predicts which sequences have ESE activity by statistical analysis of exon-intron and splice site composition. When large data sets of human gene sequences were used, this method identified 10 predicted ESE motifs. Representatives of all 10 motifs were found to display enhancer activity in vivo, whereas point mutants of these sequences exhibited sharply reduced activity. The motifs identified enable prediction of the splicing phenotypes of exonic mutations in human genes.


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Human genomic sequences that inhibit splicing.

Fairbrother WG, Chasin LA.


Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA.

Mammalian genes are characterized by relatively small exons surrounded by variable lengths of intronic sequence. Sequences similar to the splice signals that define the 5' and 3' boundaries of these exons are also present in abundance throughout the surrounding introns. What causes the real sites to be distinguished from the multitude of pseudosites in pre-mRNA is unclear. Much progress has been made in defining additional sequence elements that enhance the use of particular sites. Less work has been done on sequences that repress the use of particular splice sites. To find additional examples of sequences that inhibit splicing, we searched human genomic DNA libraries for sequences that would inhibit the inclusion of a constitutively spliced exon. Genetic selection experiments suggested that such sequences were common, and we subsequently tested randomly chosen restriction fragments of about 100 bp. When inserted into the central exon of a three-exon minigene, about one in three inhibited inclusion, revealing a high frequency of inhibitory elements in human DNA. In contrast, only 1 in 27 Escherichia coli DNA fragments was inhibitory. Several previously identified silencing elements derived from alternatively spliced exons functioned weakly in this constitutively spliced exon. In contrast, a high-affinity site for U2AF65 strongly inhibited exon inclusion. Together, our results suggest that splicing occurs in a background of repression and, since many of our inhibitors contain splice like signals, we suggest that repression of some pseudosites may occur through an inhibitory arrangement of these sites.


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