Motivation

Transcription factor (TF) binds to conservative DNA binding sites in different cellular environments and development stages by physical interaction with interdependent nucleotides. However, systematic computational characterization of the relationship between higher-order nucleotide dependency and TF-DNA binding mechanism in diverse cell types remains challenging.

Results

Here, we propose a novel multi-task learning framework HAMPLE to simultaneously predict TF binding sites (TFBS) in distinct cell types by characterizing higher-order nucleotide dependencies. Specifically, HAMPLE first represents a DNA sequence through three higher-order nucleotide dependencies, including k-mer encoding, DNA shape and histone modification. Then, HAMPLE uses the customized gate control and the channel attention convolutional architecture to further capture cell-type-specific and cell-type-shared DNA binding motifs and epigenomic languages. Finally, HAMPLE exploits the joint loss function to optimize the TFBS prediction for different cell types in an end-to-end manner. Extensive experimental results on seven datasets demonstrate that HAMPLE significantly outperforms the state-of-the-art approaches in terms of auROC. In addition, feature importance analysis illustrates that k-mer encoding, DNA shape, and histone modification have predictive power for TF-DNA binding in different cellular environments and are complementary to each other. Furthermore, ablation study, and interpretable analysis validate the effectiveness of the customized gate control and the channel attention convolutional architecture in characterizing higher-order nucleotide dependencies.

Availability and implementation

The source code is available at https://github.com/ZhangLab312/Hample.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.