iDNA-ABT : advanced deep learning model for detecting DNA methylation with adaptive features and transductive information maximization

Bioinformatics. 2021 Oct 2;btab677. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btab677. Online ahead of print.


Motivation: DNA methylation plays an important role in epigenetic modification, the occurrence, and the development of diseases. Therefore, the identification of DNA methylation sites is critical for better understanding and revealing their functional mechanisms. To date, several machine learning and deep learning methods have been developed for the prediction of different methylation types. However, they still highly rely on manual features, which can largely limit the high-latent information extraction. Moreover, most of them are designed for one specific methylation type, and therefore cannot predict multiple methylation sites in multiple species simultaneously. In this study, we propose iDNA-ABT, an advanced deep learning model that utilizes adaptive embedding based on bidirectional transformers for language understanding together with a novel transductive information maximization (TIM) loss.

Results: Benchmark results show that our proposed iDNA-ABT can automatically and adaptively learn the distinguishing features of biological sequences from multiple species, and thus perform significantly better than the state-of-the-art methods in predicting three different DNA methylation. In addition, TIM loss is proven to be effective in dichotomous tasks via the comparison experiment. Furthermore, we verify that our features have strong adaptability and robustness to different species through comparison of adaptive embedding and six handcrafted feature encodings. Importantly, our model shows great generalization ability in different species, demonstrating that our model can adaptively capture the cross-species differences and improve the predictive performance. For the convenient use of our method, we further established an online webserver as the implementation of the proposed iDNA-ABT.

Availability: our proposed iDNA-ABT, which is now freely accessible via and our source codes are available in the GitHub repository (

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.