Three-dimensional (3D) genome spatial organization is critical for numerous cellular processes, including transcription, while certain conformation-driven structural alterations are frequently oncogenic. Genome architecture had been notoriously difficult to elucidate, but the advent of the suite of chromatin conformation capture assays, notably Hi-C, has transformed understanding of chromatin structure and provided downstream biological insights. Although many findings have flowed from direct analysis of the pairwise proximity data produced by these assays, there is added value in generating corresponding 3D reconstructions deriving from superposing genomic features on the reconstruction. Accordingly, many methods for inferring 3D architecture from proximity data have been advanced. However, none of these approaches exploit the fact that single chromosome solutions constitute a one-dimensional (1D) curve in 3D. Rather, this aspect has either been addressed by imposition of constraints, which is both computationally burdensome and cell type specific, or ignored with contiguity imposed after the fact. Here, we target finding a 1D curve by extending principal curve methodology to the metric scaling problem. We illustrate how this approach yields a sequence of candidate solutions, indexed by an underlying smoothness or degrees-of-freedom parameter, and propose methods for selection from this sequence. We apply the methodology to Hi-C data obtained on IMR90 cells and so are positioned to evaluate reconstruction accuracy by referencing orthogonal imaging data. The results indicate the utility and reproducibility of our principal curve approach in the face of underlying structural variation.

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