1 Introduction

Post-transcriptional modifications can be found abundantly in rRNA and tRNA and can be detected classically via several strategies. However, difficulties arise if the identity and the position of the modified nucleotides is to be determined at the same time. Classically, a primer extension, a form of reverse transcription (RT), would allow certain modifications to be accessed by blocks during the RT changes or changes in the cDNA sequences. Other modification would need to be selectively treated by chemical reactions to influence the outcome of the reverse transcription.

With the increased availability of high throughput sequencing, these classical methods were adapted to high throughput methods allowing more RNA molecules to be accessed at the same time. However, patterns of some modification cannot be detected by accessing small number of parameters. For these cases machine learning models can be trained on data from positions known to be modified in order to detect additional modified positions.

To extend the functionality of the RNAmodR package and classical detection strategies used for RiboMethSeq or AlkAnilineSeq (see RNAmodR.RiboMethSeq and RNAmodR.AlkAnilineSeq packages) towards detection through machine learning models, RNAmodR.ML provides classes and an example workflow.

2 Using RNAmodR.ML

## Warning: replacing previous import 'utils::findMatches' by
## 'S4Vectors::findMatches' when loading 'ExperimentHubData'

The ModifierML class extends the Modifier class from the RNAmodR package and adds one slot, mlModel, a getter/setter getMLModel/setMLModel, an additional useMLModel function to be called from the aggregate function.

The slot mlModel can either be an empty character or contain a name of a ModifierMLModel class, which is loaded upon creation of a ModifierML object, and serves as a wrapper around a machine learning model. For different types of machine learning models ModifierMLModel derived classes are available, which currently are:

To illustrate how to develop a machine learning model with help from the RNAmodR.ML package, an example is given below.

3 Development of new Modifier class

As an example for this vignette, we will try to detect D positions in AlkAnilineSeq data. First define a specific ModifierML class loading pileup and coverage data. In this example, the RNA specific RNAModifierML class is used.

         contains = c("RNAModifierML"),
         prototype = list(mod = c("D"),
                          score = "score",
                          dataType = c("PileupSequenceData",
                          mlModel = character(0)))
# constructor function for ModMLExample
ModMLExample <- function(x, annotation = NA, sequences = NA, seqinfo = NA,
  RNAmodR:::Modifier("ModMLExample", x = x, annotation = annotation,
                     sequences = sequences, seqinfo = seqinfo, ...)

         contains = "ModifierSet",
         prototype = list(elementType = "ModMLExample"))
# constructor function for ModSetMLExample
ModSetMLExample <- function(x, annotation = NA, sequences = NA, seqinfo = NA,
  RNAmodR:::ModifierSet("ModMLExample", x, annotation = annotation,
                        sequences = sequences, seqinfo = seqinfo, ...)

Since the mlModel slot contains an empty character, the creation of the object will not automatically trigger a search for modifications. However, it will aggregate the data in the format we want to use. The aggregate_example function is just an example and the aggregation of the data is part of the model building. (See (#Summary))

  f = "aggregateData",
  signature = signature(x = "ModMLExample"),
  definition =

4 Getting training data

To gather training data, we just create a ModMLExample object and let it do its job.

me <-  ModMLExample(files[[1]], annotation, sequences)
## Import genomic features from the file as a GRanges object ... OK
## Prepare the 'metadata' data frame ... OK
## Make the TxDb object ... OK
## Loading Pileup data from BAM files ... OK
## Loading Coverage data from BAM files ... OK
## Aggregating data and calculating scores ... Starting to search for 'Dihydrouridine' ...
## Warning: ML model not set. Skipped search for modifications ...
## done.

Afterwards we need to load/create coordinates for positions known to be modified as well as positions known to be unmodified.

data("dmod",package = "RNAmodR.ML")
# we just select the next U position from known positions
nextUPos <- function(gr){
  nextU <- lapply(seq.int(1L,2L),
                    subseq <- subseq(sequences(me)[dmod$Parent], start(dmod)+3L)
                    pos <- start(dmod) + 2L + 
                    function(y){which(y == "U")[i]},integer(1))
                    ans <- dmod
                    ranges(ans) <- IRanges(start = pos, width = 1L)
  nextU <- do.call(c,nextU)
  nextU$mod <- NULL
nondmod <- nextUPos(dmod)
nondmod <- nondmod[!(nondmod %in% dmod)]
coord <- unique(c(dmod,nondmod))
coord <- coord[order(as.integer(coord$Parent))]

With these coordinates the aggregated data of the ModMLExample can be subset to a training data set using the function trainingData.

trainingData <- trainingData(me,coord)
trainingData <- unlist(trainingData, use.names = FALSE)
# converting logical labels to integer
trainingData$labels <- as.integer(trainingData$labels)

5 Training a model

How a specific model can be trained or what kind of strategies can be employed to successfully train a model, is out of scope for the vignette. For this example a random forest is trained using the functionality provided by the ranger package.

model <- ranger(labels ~ ., data.frame(trainingData))

6 Constructing a ‘ModifierMLModel’

Now, the trained model can be used to create a new ModifierMLModel class and object.

         contains = c("ModifierMLranger"),
         prototype = list(model = model))
ModifierMLexample <- function(...){
mlmodel <- ModifierMLexample()

To be able to use the model via the ModifierMLModel class, we also need to define an accessor to the predictions made by the model. This function is called useModel and is already prefined for the ModifierMLModel classes mentioned above in secion Using RNAmodR.ML.

getMethod("useModel", c("ModifierMLranger","ModifierML"))
## Method Definition:
## function (x, y) 
## {
##     data <- getAggregateData(y)
##     model <- x@model
##     if (!is(model, "ranger")) {
##         stop("model is not a ranger model")
##     }
##     unlisted_data <- unlist(data, use.names = FALSE)
##     p <- predict(x@model, data.frame(unlisted_data))
##     relist(p$predictions, data)
## }
## <bytecode: 0x55f69e540fa8>
## <environment: namespace:RNAmodR.ML>
## Signatures:
##         x                  y           
## target  "ModifierMLranger" "ModifierML"
## defined "ModifierMLranger" "ModifierML"

If the results of these function is not usable for a specific model, it can redefined for your needs. As defined by RNAmodR.ML the function returns a NumericList along the aggregated data of the ModifierML object.

7 Setting and using the model

The generated ModifierMLexample wrapper can now be set for the ModifierML object using the setMLModel function. (If a model is saved as part of a package, this step ist not necessary, because it can be part of the class definition)

setMLModel(me) <- mlmodel

In order for the prediction data to be usable, another function has to be implemented to save the predictions in the aggregated data. The function is called useMLModel.

setMethod(f = "useMLModel",
          signature = signature(x = "ModMLExample"),
          definition =
              predictions <- useModel(getMLModel(x), x)
              data <- getAggregateData(x)
              unlisted_data <- unlist(data, use.names = FALSE)
              unlisted_data$score <- unlist(predictions)
              x@aggregate <- relist(unlisted_data,data)

By re-running the aggregate function and force an update of the data, the predictions are made and used to populate the score column as outlined above.

me <- aggregate(me, force = TRUE)

8 Performance

During the model building phase some form of a performance measurement usually is included. In addition to these model specific measurements, RNAmodR.ML includes the functionality from the ROCR package inherited from the RNAmodR package. With this the performance of a model can evaluted over the training set or any coordinates.

plotROC(me, dmod)