DNase-seq and ATAC-seq are broadly used methods to assay open chromatin regions genome-wide. The single nucleotide resolution of DNase-seq has been further exploited to infer transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) in regulatory regions via footprinting. Recent studies have demonstrated the sequence bias of DNase I and its adverse effects on footprinting efficiency. However, footprinting and the impact of sequence bias have not been extensively studied for ATAC-seq. Here, we undertake a systematic comparison of the two methods and show that a modification to the ATAC-seq protocol increases its yield and its agreement with DNase-seq data from the same cell line. We demonstrate that the two methods have distinct sequence biases and correct for these protocol-specific biases when performing footprinting. Despite differences in footprint shapes, the locations of the inferred footprints in ATAC-seq and DNase-seq are largely concordant. However, the protocol-specific sequence biases in conjunction with the sequence content of TFBSs impacts the discrimination of footprint from background, which leads to one method outperforming the other for some TFs. Finally, we address the depth required for reproducible identification of open chromatin regions and TF footprints.
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