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HiC-bench: comprehensive and reproducible Hi-C data analysis designed for parameter exploration and benchmarking

By Charalampos Lazaris, Stephen Kelly, Panagiotis Ntziachristos, Iannis Aifantis, Aristotelis Tsirigos

Posted 02 Nov 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/084954 (published DOI: 10.1186/s12864-016-3387-6)

Chromatin conformation capture techniques have evolved rapidly over the last few years and have provided new insights into genome organization at an unprecedented resolution. Analysis of Hi-C data is complex and computationally intensive involving multiple tasks and requiring robust quality assessment at each step of the analysis. This has led to the development of several tools and methods for processing Hi-C data. However, most of the existing tools do not cover all aspects of the analysis and only offer few quality assessment options. Additionally, availability of a multitude of tools makes scientists wonder how these tools and associated parameters can be optimally used, and how potential discrepancies can be interpreted and resolved. Most importantly, investigators need to be ensured that slight changes in parameters and/or methods do not affect the conclusions of their studies. Finally, any analysis, no matter how complex, should be reproducible by keeping track of the tool versions, parameters and input data. To address these issues (compare, explore and reproduce), we introduce HiC-bench, a configurable computational platform for comprehensive and reproducible analysis of Hi-C sequencing data. HiC-bench performs all common Hi-C analysis tasks, such as alignment, filtering, contact matrix generation and normalization, identification of topological domains, scoring and annotation of specific interactions using both published tools and our own. We have also embedded various tasks that perform quality assessment and visualization. HiC-bench is implemented as a data flow platform with an emphasis on analysis reproducibility. Additionally, the user can readily perform parameter exploration and comparison of different tools in a combinatorial manner that takes into account all desired parameter settings in each pipeline task. This unique feature facilitates the design and execution of complex benchmark studies that may involve combinations of multiple tool/parameter choices in each step of the analysis. To demonstrate the usefulness of our platform, we performed a comprehensive benchmark of existing and new TAD callers exploring different matrix correction methods, parameter settings and sequencing depths. Users can extend our pipeline by adding more tools as they become available. HiC-bench is distributed as free open-source software on GitHub and Zenodo, and our bioinformatics team offers installation and usage support.

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