scaDA: A Novel Statistical Method for Differential Analysis of Single-Cell Chromatin Accessibility Sequencing Data

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 24:2024.01.21.576570. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.21.576570.


Single-cell ATAC-seq sequencing data (scATAC-seq) has been widely used to investigate chromatin accessibility on the single-cell level. One important application of scATAC-seq data analysis is differential chromatin accessibility analysis. However, the data characteristics of scATAC-seq such as excessive zeros and large variability of chromatin accessibility across cells impose a unique challenge for DA analysis. Existing statistical methods focus on detecting the mean difference of the chromatin accessible regions while overlooking the distribution difference. Motivated by real data exploration that distribution difference exists among cell types, we introduce a novel composite statistical test named "scaDA", which is based on zero-inflated negative binomial model (ZINB), for performing differential distribution analysis of chromatin accessibility by jointly testing the abundance, prevalence and dispersion simultaneously. Benefiting from both dispersion shrinkage and iterative refinement of mean and prevalence parameter estimates, scaDA demonstrates its superiority to both ZINB-based likelihood ratio tests and published methods by achieving the highest power and best FDR control in a comprehensive simulation study. In addition to demonstrating the highest power in three real sc-multiome data analyses, scaDA successfully identifies differentially accessible regions in microglia from sc-multiome data for an Alzheimer's disease (AD) study, regions which are most enriched in GO terms related to neurogenesis, the clinical phenotype of AD, and SNPs identified in AD-associated GWAS.

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