ContDist: A tool for the analysis of quantitative gene and promoter properties

Michael Hackenberg, Gorka Lasso, Rune Matthiesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The understanding of how promoter regions regulate gene expression is complicated and far from being fully understood. It is known that histones' regulation of DNA compactness, DNA methylation, transcription factor binding sites and CpG islands play a role in the transcriptional regulation of a gene. Many high-throughput techniques exist nowadays which permit the detection of epigenetic marks and regulatory elements in the promoter regions of thousands of genes. However, so far the subsequent analysis of such experiments (e.g. the resulting gene lists) have been hampered by the fact that currently no tool exists for a detailed analysis of the promoter regions. Results: We present ContDist, a tool to statistically analyze quantitative gene and promoter properties. The software includes approximately 200 quantitative features of gene and promoter regions for 7 commonly studied species. In contrast to "traditionally" ontological analysis which only works on qualitative data, all the features in the underlying annotation database are quantitative gene and promoter properties. Utilizing the strong focus on the promoter region of this tool, we show its usefulness in two case studies; the first on differentially methylated promoters and the second on the fundamental differences between housekeeping and tissue specific genes. The two case studies allow both the confirmation of recent findings as well as revealing previously unreported biological relations. Conclusion: ContDist is a new tool with two important properties: 1) it has a strong focus on the promoter region which is usually disregarded by virtually all ontology tools and 2) it uses quantitative (continuously distributed) features of the genes and its promoter regions which are not available in any other tool. ContDist is available from

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalBMC bioinformatics
StatePublished - Jan 7 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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