Implementing your own Peak Caller

We explain how to use RGT to implement your own  peak caller for a single ChIP-Seq profile. The peak caller can account for control input-DNA and can normalize against the GC content. We output the identified peaks in BED format, and the computed ChIP-Seq signal, that is, the genomic signal, in bigwig format. For this task will provide aligned reads from the PU.1 ChIP-Seq experiments of common dendritic cells (cDC). For computational simplicity, we only provide reads for chromosome 19.

For this tutorial, you need to have RGT installed and configured to work with mouse genome 9 (see configuration of genomic data).

Preprocessing Steps

First, to work on genomic signals and create wig/bigWig files, we need to known the chromosome sizes. For this, we use GenomeData and the method get_chrom_sizes_as_genomicregionset from our helper class. We create an instance of GenomeData and use the helper function to obtain a GenomicRegionSet indicating the size of chromosomes. In this example, we work on the mouse genome version 9 (mm9). We thereby ensure that our peak caller knows the chromosome sizes.

from rgt.Util import GenomeData
from rgt.helper import get_chrom_sizes_as_genomicregionset
g = GenomeData('mm9') 
regionset = get_chrom_sizes_as_genomicregionset(g.get_chromosome_sizes())

Before reading the ChIP-seq signal profiles, we need to compute the fragment size of the reads.  We use ODIN’s extension size calculation to perform this step. We use the BAM file from the example data.

from rgt.ODIN.get_extension_size import get_extension_size
bamfile = 'PU1_cDC.chr19.bam'
ext, _ = get_extension_size(bamfile, start=0, end=300, stepsize=5)

Next, we create an instance of CoverageSet and load the ChIP-Seq reads. We use regionset, which describes the entire genome, as base for the CoverageSet. We thereby consider all aligned reads in the BAM file.

from rgt.CoverageSet import CoverageSet
cov = CoverageSet('IP coverage', regionset)
cov.coverage_from_bam(bam_file=bamfile, read_size=ext)

In ChIP-Seq analysis, one should correct the IP ChIP-seq signals with input-DNA signals. We create a further CoverageSet instance and load the corresponding BAM file.

cov_input = CoverageSet('input-dna coverage', regionset)
bamfile_input = 'PU1_Input.chr19.bam'
cov_input.coverage_from_bam(bam_file=bamfile_input, read_size=0)

We then normalize our ChIP-Seq data. First, we normalize against the GC-content. Second, we subtract the input-DNA data from the IP data.

cov.norm_gc_content(cov_input.coverage, g.get_genome(), g.get_chromosome_sizes())

We have now preprocessed our ChIP-seq data. In a next step, we perform the actual peak calling.

Peak Calling

A peak caller simply needs to scan the genomic coverage object and detect regions with significantly high number of reads.  Our working assumption is that for a ChIP-seq experiment the reads falling into a bin follow a Binomial distribution. The Binomial distribution has two parameters s and p, which represent respectively the number of events and the probability of an event. Here, the number of events is simply the number of reads in the ChIP-seq library.  The probability of a event is the chance a read lies into a bin and can be estimated as as the average number of reads per bin (ignoring bins with zero counts) divided by the library size.

from numpy import sum, mean
s = sum(cov.overall_cov)
p = mean(cov.overall_cov[cov.overall_cov > 0]) / s

We apply a binomial test to check if a particular bin has higher reads count than expected by change.  As usual in peak caller, we ignore bins with low number of reads (>10), as they are uniquely to represent peaks. This also speeds up computation.

from scipy.stats import binom_test
def filter_peaks(c, empirical_s, empirical_p, pvalue_theshold=0.05, min_reads=10):
    p = binom_test((c, s-c), p=empirical_p) if c > min_reads else 1
    return True if p < pvalue_theshold else False

Next, we create an instance of GenomicRegionSet which serves to store identified peaks.

from rgt.GenomicRegionSet import GenomicRegionSet
res = GenomicRegionSet('identified_peaks')

The peak calling needs to iterate over all bins in the genome.  This is stored in the variable overall_cov of the CoverageSet  class. The exact genomic position of the list elements can be obtained by the function index2coordinates. The function filter_peaks will indicate if the evaluated region is a peak or not. If we consider the genomic position a peak, we save it in our res object.

from rgt.GenomicRegion import GenomicRegion
for i, c in enumerate(cov.overall_cov):
    if filter_peaks(c, s, p):
        chrom, s, e = cov.index2coordinates(i, regionset)
        res.add(GenomicRegion(chrom, s, e+1))

We use e+1 as ending coordinate, such that the considered bin overlap in one position. Finally, we merge consecutive bin to one single peak.


Postprocessing Steps

Finally, we output the identified peaks in a BED file. Furthermore, we output the computed ChIP-seq signal in a bigwig file, which can be open by your favorite genome browser.

cov.write_bigwig('', g.get_chromosome_sizes())

And that is all! Here is a screenshot of the results visualized by IGV. We show run_peaks.bed and


Check here for a bit more sophisticated coding of this peak caller. In particular, we use a lookup table for the p-values scipy’s binomial test is computing. Hence, the peak caller is much more efficient. As a exercise, you can program the  peak caller in an object orient fashion, i.e. by making it an extension of the CoverageSet class.