From benchmarking HITS-CLIP peak detection programs to a new method for identification of miRNA-binding sites from Ago2-CLIP data

Bottini S, Hamouda-Tekaya N, Tanasa B, Zaragosi LE, Grandjean V, Repetto E, Trabucchi M

Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 May;45(9):e71


PMID: 28108660

Experimental evidence indicates that about 60% of miRNA-binding activity does not follow the canonical rule about the seed matching between miRNA and target mRNAs, but rather a non-canonical miRNA targeting activity outside the seed or with a seed-like motifs. Here, we propose a new unbiased method to identify canonical and non-canonical miRNA-binding sites from peaks identified by Ago2 Cross-Linked ImmunoPrecipitation associated to high-throughput sequencing (CLIP-seq). Since the quality of peaks is of pivotal importance for the final output of the proposed method, we provide a comprehensive benchmarking of four peak detection programs, namely CIMS, PIPE-CLIP, Piranha and Pyicoclip, on four publicly available Ago2-HITS-CLIP datasets and one unpublished in-house Ago2-dataset in stem cells. We measured the sensitivity, the specificity and the position accuracy toward miRNA binding sites identification, and the agreement with TargetScan. Secondly, we developed a new pipeline, called miRBShunter, to identify canonical and non-canonical miRNA-binding sites based on de novo motif identification from Ago2 peaks and prediction of miRNA::RNA heteroduplexes. miRBShunter was tested and experimentally validated on the in-house Ago2-dataset and on an Ago2-PAR-CLIP dataset in human stem cells. Overall, we provide guidelines to choose a suitable peak detection program and a new method for miRNA-target identification.