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In Briefings in bioinformatics

Transcription factors (TFs) are essential proteins in regulating the spatiotemporal expression of genes. It is crucial to infer the potential transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) with high resolution to promote biology and realize precision medicine. Recently, deep learning-based models have shown exemplary performance in the prediction of TFBSs at the base-pair level. However, the previous models fail to integrate nucleotide position information and semantic information without noisy responses. Thus, there is still room for improvement. Moreover, both the inner mechanism and prediction results of these models are challenging to interpret. To this end, the Deep Attentive Encoder-Decoder Neural Network (D-AEDNet) is developed to identify the location of TFs-DNA binding sites in DNA sequences. In particular, our model adopts Skip Architecture to leverage the nucleotide position information in the encoder and removes noisy responses in the information fusion process by Attention Gate. Simultaneously, the Transcription Factor Motif Discovery based on Sliding Window (TF-MoDSW), an approach to discover TFs-DNA binding motifs by utilizing the output of neural networks, is proposed to understand the biological meaning of the predicted result. On ChIP-exo datasets, experimental results show that D-AEDNet has better performance than competing methods. Besides, we authenticate that Attention Gate can improve the interpretability of our model by ways of visualization analysis. Furthermore, we confirm that ability of D-AEDNet to learn TFs-DNA binding motifs outperform the state-of-the-art methods and availability of TF-MoDSW to discover biological sequence motifs in TFs-DNA interaction by conducting experiment on ChIP-seq datasets.

Zhang Yongqing, Wang Zixuan, Zeng Yuanqi, Zhou Jiliu, Zou Quan


Attention Gate, interpretability, motif discovery, transcription factor binding sites