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J Comput Biol. 2016 May;23(5):322-36. doi: 10.1089/cmb.2015.0189. Epub 2016 Jan 22.

Deep Feature Selection: Theory and Application to Identify Enhancers and Promoters.

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1 Information and Communications Technologies, National Research Council of Canada , Ottawa, Ontario, Canada .
2 Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Child and Family Research Institute, BC Children's Hospital, University of British Columbia , Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada .


Sparse linear models approximate target variable(s) by a sparse linear combination of input variables. Since they are simple, fast, and able to select features, they are widely used in classification and regression. Essentially they are shallow feed-forward neural networks that have three limitations: (1) incompatibility to model nonlinearity of features, (2) inability to learn high-level features, and (3) unnatural extensions to select features in a multiclass case. Deep neural networks are models structured by multiple hidden layers with nonlinear activation functions. Compared with linear models, they have two distinctive strengths: the capability to (1) model complex systems with nonlinear structures and (2) learn high-level representation of features. Deep learning has been applied in many large and complex systems where deep models significantly outperform shallow ones. However, feature selection at the input level, which is very helpful to understand the nature of a complex system, is still not well studied. In genome research, the cis-regulatory elements in noncoding DNA sequences play a key role in the expression of genes. Since the activity of regulatory elements involves highly interactive factors, a deep tool is strongly needed to discover informative features. In order to address the above limitations of shallow and deep models for selecting features of a complex system, we propose a deep feature selection (DFS) model that (1) takes advantages of deep structures to model nonlinearity and (2) conveniently selects a subset of features right at the input level for multiclass data. Simulation experiments convince us that this model is able to correctly identify both linear and nonlinear features. We applied this model to the identification of active enhancers and promoters by integrating multiple sources of genomic information. Results show that our model outperforms elastic net in terms of size of discriminative feature subset and classification accuracy.


deep feature selection; deep learning; enhancer; promoter

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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