A neural network based model effectively predicts enhancers from clinical ATAC-seq samples

Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):16048. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-34420-9.


Enhancers are cis-acting sequences that regulate transcription rates of their target genes in a cell-specific manner and harbor disease-associated sequence variants in cognate cell types. Many complex diseases are associated with enhancer malfunction, necessitating the discovery and study of enhancers from clinical samples. Assay for Transposase Accessible Chromatin (ATAC-seq) technology can interrogate chromatin accessibility from small cell numbers and facilitate studying enhancers in pathologies. However, on average, ~35% of open chromatin regions (OCRs) from ATAC-seq samples map to enhancers. We developed a neural network-based model, Predicting Enhancers from ATAC-Seq data (PEAS), to effectively infer enhancers from clinical ATAC-seq samples by extracting ATAC-seq data features and integrating these with sequence-related features (e.g., GC ratio). PEAS recapitulated ChromHMM-defined enhancers in CD14+ monocytes, CD4+ T cells, GM12878, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and pancreatic islets. PEAS models trained on these 5 cell types effectively predicted enhancers in four cell types that are not used in model training (EndoC-βH1, naïve CD8+ T, MCF7, and K562 cells). Finally, PEAS inferred individual-specific enhancers from 19 islet ATAC-seq samples and revealed variability in enhancer activity across individuals, including those driven by genetic differences. PEAS is an easy-to-use tool developed to study enhancers in pathologies by taking advantage of the increasing number of clinical epigenomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites*
  • Cell Line
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Transcriptome
  • Transposases / chemistry
  • Transposases / metabolism*


  • Transposases