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msCentipede: Modeling heterogeneity across genomic sites improves accuracy in the inference of transcription factor binding
Motivation: Understanding global gene regulation depends critically on accurate annotation of regulatory elements that are functional in a given cell type. CENTIPEDE, a powerful, probabilistic framework for identifying transcription factor binding sites from tissue-specific DNase I cleavage patterns and genomic sequence content, leverages the hypersensitivity of factor-bound chromatin and the information in the DNase I spatial cleavage profile characteristic of each DNA binding protein to accurately infer functional factor binding sites. However, the model for the spatial profile in this framework underestimates the substantial variation in the DNase I cleavage profiles across factor-bound genomic locations and across replicate measurements of chromatin accessibility. Results: In this work, we adapt a multi-scale modeling framework for inhomogeneous Poisson processes to better model the underlying variation in DNase I cleavage patterns across genomic locations bound by a transcription factor. In addition to modeling variation, we also model spatial structure in the heterogeneity in DNase I cleavage patterns for each factor. Using DNase-seq measurements assayed in a lymphoblastoid cell line, we demonstrate the improved performance of this model for several transcription factors by comparing against the Chip-Seq peaks for those factors. Finally, we propose an extension to this framework that allows for a more flexible background model and evaluate the additional gain in accuracy achieved when the background model parameters are estimated using DNase-seq data from naked DNA. The proposed model can also be applied to paired-end ATAC-seq and DNase-seq data in a straightforward manner. Availability: msCentipede, a Python implementation of an algorithm to infer transcription factor binding using this model, is made available at https://github.com/rajanil/msCentipede
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