BACKGROUNDMachine learning approaches are emerging as a way to discriminate various classes of functional elements. Previous attempts to create Regulatory Potential (RP) scores to discriminate functional DNA from nonfunctional DNA included using Markov models trained to identify sequences from promoters and enhancers from ancestral repeats. We proposed that knowledge gleaned from those methods could be further refined using a multiple class predictor to separate classes of promoter elements from enhancers or nonfunctional DNA.RESULTSWe extended our previous work, which identified over 5,000 candidate bidirectional promoters in the human genome, to map the orthologous promoter regions in the mouse genome. Our algorithm measured the robustness of evidence provided by the spliced EST annotations and incorporated evidence from annotations of UCSC Known Genes and GenBank mRNA. In preparation for de novo prediction of this promoter type, we examined characteristic features of the dataset as a whole. For instance, bidirectional promoters score very highly among all functional elements for Regulatory Potential Scores. This result was unexpected due to the limited sequence conservation found in these noncoding regions. We demonstrate that bidirectional promoters can be classified apart from other genomic features including non-bidirectional promoters, i.e. those promoters having no nearby upstream genes. Furthermore bidirectional promoters consistently score at the level of very highly conserved functional elements in the genome- developmental enhancers. The high scores are due to sequence-based characteristics within the promoters, not the surrounding exons. These results indicate that high-scoring RP regions can be deconvoluted into various functional classes of genomic elements. Using a multiple class predictor we are able to discriminate bidirectional promoters from enhancers, non-bidirectional promoters, and non-promoter regions on the basis of RP scores and CpG islands.CONCLUSIONSWe examine orthology at bidirectional promoters, use discriminatory machine learning approaches to differentiate multiple types of promoters from other functional and nonfunctional features in the genome and begin the process of deconvoluting classes of functional regions that score well with RP scores. These types of approaches precede supervised learning techniques to discover unannotated promoter regions.