Google Research

Inference of 3D genome architecture by modeling overdispersion of Hi-C data

  • Nelle Varoquaux
  • William Stafford Noble
  • Jean-Philippe Vert
bioRxiv (2021)


We address the challenge of inferring a consensus 3D model of genome architecture from Hi-C data. Existing approaches most often rely on a two step algorithm: first convert the contact counts into distances, then optimize an objective function akin to multidimensional scaling (MDS) to infer a 3D model. Other approaches use a maximum likelihood approach, modeling the contact counts between two loci as a Poisson random variable whose intensity is a decreasing function of the distance between them. However, a Poisson model of contact counts implies that the variance of the data is equal to the mean, a relationship that is often too restrictive to properly model count data.

We first confirm the presence of overdispersion in several real Hi-C data sets, and we show that the overdispersion arises even in simulated data sets. We then propose a new model, called Pastis-NB, where we replace the Poisson model of contact counts by a negative binomial one, which is parametrized by a mean and a separate dispersion parameter. The dispersion parameter allows the variance to be adjusted independently from the mean, thus better modeling overdispersed data. We compare the results of Pastis-NB to those of several previously published algorithms: three MDS-based methods (ShRec3D, ChromSDE, and Pastis-MDS) and a statistical methods based on a Poisson model of the data (Pastis-PM). We show that the negative binomial inference yields more accurate structures on simulated data, and more robust structures than other models across real Hi-C replicates and across different resolutions.

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