DiffLogo: a comparative visualization of sequence motifs

Nettling, Martin; Treutler, Hendrik; Grau, Jan; Keilwagen, Jens GND; Posch, Stefan; Grosse, Ivo

Background For three decades, sequence logos are the de facto standard for the visualization of sequence motifs in biology and bioinformatics. Reasons for this success story are their simplicity and clarity. The number of inferred and published motifs grows with the number of data sets and motif extraction algorithms. Hence, it becomes more and more important to perceive differences between motifs. However, motif differences are hard to detect from individual sequence logos in case of multiple motifs for one transcription factor, highly similar binding motifs of different transcription factors, or multiple motifs for one protein domain. Results Here, we present DiffLogo, a freely available, extensible, and user-friendly R package for visualizing motif differences. DiffLogo is capable of showing differences between DNA motifs as well as protein motifs in a pair-wise manner resulting in publication-ready figures. In case of more than two motifs, DiffLogo is capable of visualizing pair-wise differences in a tabular form. Here, the motifs are ordered by similarity, and the difference logos are colored for clarity. We demonstrate the benefit of DiffLogo on CTCF motifs from different human cell lines, on E-box motifs of three basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors as examples for comparison of DNA motifs, and on F-box domains from three different families as example for comparison of protein motifs. Conclusions DiffLogo provides an intuitive visualization of motif differences. It enables the illustration and investigation of differences between highly similar motifs such as binding patterns of transcription factors for different cell types, treatments, and algorithmic approaches.

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Nettling, Martin / Treutler, Hendrik / Grau, Jan / et al: DiffLogo: a comparative visualization of sequence motifs. 2015.

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