Background: Eukaryotic cell cycle is a complex process and is precisely regulated at many levels. Many genes specific to the cell cycle are regulated transcriptionally and are expressed just before they are needed. To understand the cell cycle process, it is important to identify the cell cycle transcription factors (TFs) that regulate the expression of cell cycle-regulated genes. Results: We developed a method to identify cell cycle TFs in yeast by integrating current ChIP-chip, mutant, transcription factor binding site (TFBS), and cell cycle gene expression data. We identified 17 cell cycle TFs, 12 of which are known cell cycle TFs, while the remaining five (Ash1, Rlm1, Ste12, Stp1, Tec1) are putative novel cell cycle TFs. For each cell cycle TF, we assigned specific cell cycle phases in which the TF functions and identified the time lag for the TF to exert regulatory effects on its target genes. We also identified 178 novel cell cycle-regulated genes, among which 59 have unknown functions, but they may now be annotated as cell cycle-regulated genes. Most of our predictions are supported by previous experimental or computational studies. Furthermore, a high confidence TF-gene regulatory matrix is derived as a byproduct of our method. Each TF-gene regulatory relationship in this matrix is supported by at least three data sources: gene expression, TFBS, and ChIP-chip or/and mutant data. We show that our method performs better than four existing methods for identifying yeast cell cycle TFs. Finally, an application of our method to different cell cycle gene expression datasets suggests that our method is robust. Conclusion: Our method is effective for identifying yeast cell cycle TFs and cell cycle-regulated genes. Many of our predictions are validated by the literature. Our study shows that integrating multiple data sources is a powerful approach to studying complex biological systems.
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