Chromatin accessibility prediction via convolutional long short-term memory networks withk-mer embedding

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Experimental techniques for measuring chromatin accessibility are expensive and time consuming, appealing for the development of computational approaches to predict open chromatin regions from DNA sequences. Along this direction, existing methods fall into two classes: one based on handcrafted k-mer features and the other based on convolutional neural networks. Although both categories have shown good performance in specific applications thus far, there still lacks a comprehensive framework to integrate useful k-mer co-occurrence information with recent advances in deep learning.


We fill this gap by addressing the problem of chromatin accessibility prediction with a convolutional Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) network with k-mer embedding. We first split DNA sequences into k-mers and pre-train k-mer embedding vectors based on the co-occurrence matrix of k-mers by using an unsupervised representation learning approach. We then construct a supervised deep learning architecture comprised of an embedding layer, three convolutional layers and a Bidirectional LSTM (BLSTM) layer for feature learning and classification. We demonstrate that our method gains high-quality fixed-length features from variable-length sequences and consistently outperforms baseline methods. We show that k-mer embedding can effectively enhance model performance by exploring different embedding strategies. We also prove the efficacy of both the convolution and the BLSTM layers by comparing two variations of the network architecture. We confirm the robustness of our model to hyper-parameters by performing sensitivity analysis. We hope our method can eventually reinforce our understanding of employing deep learning in genomic studies and shed light on research regarding mechanisms of chromatin accessibility.

Availability and implementation:

The source code can be downloaded from

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Supplementary information:

Supplementary materials are available at Bioinformatics online.

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