Transcription factor (TF) binding to genomic DNA elements constitutes one of the key mechanisms that regulates gene expression program in cells. Both consensus and nonconsensus DNA sequence elements influence the recognition specificity of TFs. Based on the analysis of experimentally determined c-Myc binding preferences to genomic DNA, here we statistically predict that certain repetitive, nonconsensus DNA symmetry elements can relatively reduce TF-DNA binding preferences. This is in contrast to a different set of repetitive, nonconsensus symmetry elements that can increase the strength of TF-DNA binding. Using c-Myc enhancer reporter system containing consensus motif flanked by nonconsensus sequences in embryonic stem cells, we directly demonstrate that the enrichment in such negatively regulating repetitive symmetry elements is sufficient to reduce the gene expression level compared with native genomic sequences. Negatively regulating repetitive symmetry elements around consensus c-Myc motif and DNA sequences containing consensus c-Myc motif flanked by entirely randomized sequences show similar expression baseline. A possible explanation for this observation is that rather than complete repression, negatively regulating repetitive symmetry elements play a regulatory role in fine-tuning the reduction of gene expression, most probably by binding TFs other than c-Myc.
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