Background: Enhancers are distal cis-regulatory elements that control gene expression. Despite an increasing appreciation of the importance of enhancers in cellular function and disease, our knowledge of enhancer-regulated transcription is very limited. Nascent RNA sequencing technologies, such as global nuclear run-on sequencing (GRO-seq) and precision run-on sequencing (PRO-seq), not only provide a direct and reliable measurement of enhancer activity, but also allow for quantifying transcription of enhancers and target genes simultaneously, making these technologies extremely useful for exploring enhancer-mediated regulation. Results: Nascent RNA sequencing analysis (NRSA) provides a comprehensive view of enhancer-mediated gene regulation. NRSA not only outperforms existing methods for enhancer identification, but also enables annotation and quantification of active enhancers, and prediction of their target genes. Furthermore, NRSA identifies functionally important enhancers by integrating 1) nascent transcriptional changes in enhancers and their target genes and 2) binding profiles from regulator(s) of interest. Applied to wildtype and histone deacetylase 3 (Hdac3) knockout mouse livers, NRSA showed that HDAC3 regulates RNA polymerase recruitment through both proximal (promoter) and distal (enhancer) regulatory elements. Integrating ChIP-seq with PRO-seq data, NRSA prioritized enhancers based on their potential contribution to mediating HDAC3 regulation. Conclusions: NRSA will greatly facilitate the usage of nascent RNA sequencing techniques and accelerate the study of enhancer-mediated regulation.
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