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Title: scSorter: assigning cells to known cell types according to marker genes
Abstract On single-cell RNA-sequencing data, we consider the problem of assigning cells to known cell types, assuming that the identities of cell-type-specific marker genes are given but their exact expression levels are unavailable, that is, without using a reference dataset. Based on an observation that the expected over-expression of marker genes is often absent in a nonnegligible proportion of cells, we develop a method called scSorter. scSorter allows marker genes to express at a low level and borrows information from the expression of non-marker genes. On both simulated and real data, scSorter shows much higher power compared to existing methods.
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Genome Biology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  4. Abstract Motivation

    Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) technologies allow for measurements of gene expression at a single-cell resolution. This provides researchers with a tremendous advantage for detecting heterogeneity, delineating cellular maps or identifying rare subpopulations. However, a critical complication remains: the low number of single-cell observations due to limitations by rarity of subpopulation, tissue degradation or cost. This absence of sufficient data may cause inaccuracy or irreproducibility of downstream analysis. In this work, we present Automated Cell-Type-informed Introspective Variational Autoencoder (ACTIVA): a novel framework for generating realistic synthetic data using a single-stream adversarial variational autoencoder conditioned with cell-type information. Within a single framework, ACTIVA can enlarge existing datasets and generate specific subpopulations on demand, as opposed to two separate models [such as single-cell GAN (scGAN) and conditional scGAN (cscGAN)]. Data generation and augmentation with ACTIVA can enhance scRNAseq pipelines and analysis, such as benchmarking new algorithms, studying the accuracy of classifiers and detecting marker genes. ACTIVA will facilitate analysis of smaller datasets, potentially reducing the number of patients and animals necessary in initial studies.


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    Availability and implementation

    The codes and datasets are hosted on Zenodo ( Tutorials are available at

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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