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Title: DEEPsc: A Deep Learning-Based Map Connecting Single-Cell Transcriptomics and Spatial Imaging Data
Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data provides unprecedented information on cell fate decisions; however, the spatial arrangement of cells is often lost. Several recent computational methods have been developed to impute spatial information onto a scRNA-seq dataset through analyzing known spatial expression patterns of a small subset of genes known as a reference atlas. However, there is a lack of comprehensive analysis of the accuracy, precision, and robustness of the mappings, along with the generalizability of these methods, which are often designed for specific systems. We present a system-adaptive deep learning-based method (DEEPsc) to impute spatial information onto a scRNA-seq dataset from a given spatial reference atlas. By introducing a comprehensive set of metrics that evaluate the spatial mapping methods, we compare DEEPsc with four existing methods on four biological systems. We find that while DEEPsc has comparable accuracy to other methods, an improved balance between precision and robustness is achieved. DEEPsc provides a data-adaptive tool to connect scRNA-seq datasets and spatial imaging datasets to analyze cell fate decisions. Our implementation with a uniform API can serve as a portal with access to all the methods investigated in this work for spatial exploration of cell fate decisions in scRNA-seq data. All more » methods evaluated in this work are implemented as an open-source software with a uniform interface. « less
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Award ID(s):
2028424 1763272
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Genetics
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Background

    The eukaryotic genome is capable of producing multiple isoforms from a gene by alternative polyadenylation (APA) during pre-mRNA processing. APA in the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of mRNA produces transcripts with shorter or longer 3′-UTR. Often, 3′-UTR serves as a binding platform for microRNAs and RNA-binding proteins, which affect the fate of the mRNA transcript. Thus, 3′-UTR APA is known to modulate translation and provides a mean to regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Current bioinformatics pipelines have limited capability in profiling 3′-UTR APA events due to incomplete annotations and a low-resolution analyzing power: widely available bioinformatics pipelines do not reference actionable polyadenylation (cleavage) sites but simulate 3′-UTR APA only using RNA-seq read coverage, causing false positive identifications. To overcome these limitations, we developed APA-Scan, a robust program that identifies 3′-UTR APA events and visualizes the RNA-seq short-read coverage with gene annotations.


    APA-Scan utilizes either predicted or experimentally validated actionable polyadenylation signals as a reference for polyadenylation sites and calculates the quantity of long and short 3′-UTR transcripts in the RNA-seq data. APA-Scan works in three major steps: (i) calculate the read coverage of the 3′-UTR regions of genes; (ii) identify the potential APA sites and evaluate the significancemore »of the events among two biological conditions; (iii) graphical representation of user specific event with 3′-UTR annotation and read coverage on the 3′-UTR regions. APA-Scan is implemented in Python3. Source code and a comprehensive user’s manual are freely available at


    APA-Scan was applied to both simulated and real RNA-seq datasets and compared with two widely used baselines DaPars and APAtrap. In simulation APA-Scan significantly improved the accuracy of 3′-UTR APA identification compared to the other baselines. The performance of APA-Scan was also validated by 3′-end-seq data and qPCR on mouse embryonic fibroblast cells. The experiments confirm that APA-Scan can detect unannotated 3′-UTR APA events and improve genome annotation.


    APA-Scan is a comprehensive computational pipeline to detect transcriptome-wide 3′-UTR APA events. The pipeline integrates both RNA-seq and 3′-end-seq data information and can efficiently identify the significant events with a high-resolution short reads coverage plots.

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  2. Abstract

    Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) provides details for individual cells; however, crucial spatial information is often lost. We present SpaOTsc, a method relying on structured optimal transport to recover spatial properties of scRNA-seq data by utilizing spatial measurements of a relatively small number of genes. A spatial metric for individual cells in scRNA-seq data is first established based on a map connecting it with the spatial measurements. The cell–cell communications are then obtained by “optimally transporting” signal senders to target signal receivers in space. Using partial information decomposition, we next compute the intercellular gene–gene information flow to estimate the spatial regulations between genes across cells. Four datasets are employed for cross-validation of spatial gene expression prediction and comparison to known cell–cell communications. SpaOTsc has broader applications, both in integrating non-spatial single-cell measurements with spatial data, and directly in spatial single-cell transcriptomics data to reconstruct spatial cellular dynamics in tissues.

  3. ABSTRACT: Motivation Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) captures whole transcriptome information of individual cells. While scRNA-seq measures thousands of genes, researchers are often interested in only dozens to hundreds of genes for a closer study. Then, a question is how to select those informative genes from scRNA-seq data. Moreover, single-cell targeted gene profiling technologies are gaining popularity for their low costs, high sensitivity and extra (e.g. spatial) information; however, they typically can only measure up to a few hundred genes. Then another challenging question is how to select genes for targeted gene profiling based on existing scRNA-seq data. Results Here, we develop the single-cell Projective Non-negative Matrix Factorization (scPNMF) method to select informative genes from scRNA-seq data in an unsupervised way. Compared with existing gene selection methods, scPNMF has two advantages. First, its selected informative genes can better distinguish cell types. Second, it enables the alignment of new targeted gene profiling data with reference data in a low-dimensional space to facilitate the prediction of cell types in the new data. Technically, scPNMF modifies the PNMF algorithm for gene selection by changing the initialization and adding a basis selection step, which selects informative bases to distinguish cell types. We demonstrate that scPNMFmore »outperforms the state-of-the-art gene selection methods on diverse scRNA-seq datasets. Moreover, we show that scPNMF can guide the design of targeted gene profiling experiments and the cell-type annotation on targeted gene profiling data. Availability and implementation The R package is open-access and available at The data used in this work are available at Zenodo: Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.« less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Large, comprehensive collections of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets have been generated that allow for the full transcriptional characterization of cell types across a wide variety of biological and clinical conditions. As new methods arise to measure distinct cellular modalities, a key analytical challenge is to integrate these datasets or transfer knowledge from one to the other to better understand cellular identity and functions. Here, we present a simple yet surprisingly effective method named common factor integration and transfer learning (cFIT) for capturing various batch effects across experiments, technologies, subjects, and even species. The proposed method models the shared information between various datasets by a common factor space while allowing for unique distortions and shifts in genewise expression in each batch. The model parameters are learned under an iterative nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) framework and then used for synchronized integration from across-domain assays. In addition, the model enables transferring via low-rank matrix from more informative data to allow for precise identification in data of lower quality. Compared with existing approaches, our method imposes weaker assumptions on the cell composition of each individual dataset; however, it is shown to be more reliable in preserving biological variations. We apply cFIT to multiplemore »scRNA-seq datasets of developing brain from human and mouse, varying by technologies and developmental stages. The successful integration and transfer uncover the transcriptional resemblance across systems. The study helps establish a comprehensive landscape of brain cell-type diversity and provides insights into brain development.« less
  5. Mathelier, Anthony (Ed.)
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