SIGffRid: A tool to search for sigma factor binding sites in bacterial genomes using comparative approach and biologically driven statistics

Fabrice Touzain, Sophie Schbath, Isabelle Debled-Rennesson, Bertrand Aigle, Gregory Kucherov, Pierre Leblond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many programs have been developed to identify transcription factor binding sites. However, most of them are not able to infer two-word motifs with variable spacer lengths. This case is encountered for RNA polymerase Sigma (σ) Factor Binding Sites (SFBSs) usually composed of two boxes, called -35 and -10 in reference to the transcription initiation point. Our goal is to design an algorithm detecting SFBS by using combinational and statistical constraints deduced from biological observations. Results: We describe a new approach to identify SFBSs by comparing two related bacterial genomes. The method, named SIGffRid (SIGma Factor binding sites Finder using R'MES to select Input Data), performs a simultaneous analysis of pairs of promoter regions of orthologous genes. SIGffRid uses a prior identification of over-represented patterns in whole genomes as selection criteria for potential -35 and -10 boxes. These patterns are then grouped using pairs of short seeds (of which one is possibly gapped), allowing a variable-length spacer between them. Next, the motifs are extended guided by statistical considerations, a feature that ensures a selection of motifs with statistically relevant properties. We applied our method to the pair of related bacterial genomes of Streptomyces coelicolor and Streptomyces avermitilis. Cross-check with the well-defined SFBSs of the SigR regulon in S. coelicolor is detailed, validating the algorithm. SFBSs for HrdB and BldN were also found; and the results suggested some new targets for these σ factors. In addition, consensus motifs for BldD and new SFBSs binding sites were defined, overlapping previously proposed consensuses. Relevant tests were carried out also on bacteria with moderate GC content (i.e. Escherichia coli/Salmonella typhimurium and Bacillus subtilis/Bacillus licheniformis pairs). Motifs of house-keeping σ factors were found as well as other SFBSs such as that of SigW in Bacillus strains. Conclusion: We demonstrate that our approach combining statistical and biological criteria was successful to predict SFBSs. The method versatility autorizes the recognition of other kinds of two-box regulatory sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


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