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This content will become publicly available on October 24, 2023

Title: Comparison of cell type annotation algorithms for revealing immune response of COVID-19
When analyzing scRNA-seq data with clustering algorithms, annotating the clusters with cell types is an essential step toward biological interpretation of the data. Annotations can be performed manually using known cell type marker genes. Annotations can also be automated using knowledge-driven or data-driven machine learning algorithms. Majority of cell type annotation algorithms are designed to predict cell types for individual cells in a new dataset. Since biological interpretation of scRNA-seq data is often made on cell clusters rather than individual cells, several algorithms have been developed to annotate cell clusters. In this study, we compared five cell type annotation algorithms, Azimuth, SingleR, Garnett, scCATCH, and SCSA, which cover the spectrum of knowledge-driven and data-driven approaches to annotate either individual cells or cell clusters. We applied these five algorithms to two scRNA-seq datasets of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) samples from COVID-19 patients and healthy controls, and evaluated their annotation performance. From this comparison, we observed that methods for annotating individual cells outperformed methods for annotation cell clusters. We applied the cell-based annotation algorithm Azimuth to the two scRNA-seq datasets to examine the immune response during COVID-19 infection. Both datasets presented significant depletion of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), where differential expression more » in this cell type and pathway analysis revealed strong activation of type I interferon signaling pathway in response to the infection. « less
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Frontiers in Systems Biology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Background

    Genome-wide maps of chromatin marks such as histone modifications and open chromatin sites provide valuable information for annotating the non-coding genome, including identifying regulatory elements. Computational approaches such as ChromHMM have been applied to discover and annotate chromatin states defined by combinatorial and spatial patterns of chromatin marks within the same cell type. An alternative “stacked modeling” approach was previously suggested, where chromatin states are defined jointly from datasets of multiple cell types to produce a single universal genome annotation based on all datasets. Despite its potential benefits for applications that are not specific to one cell type, such an approach was previously applied only for small-scale specialized purposes. Large-scale applications of stacked modeling have previously posed scalability challenges.


    Using a version of ChromHMM enhanced for large-scale applications, we apply the stacked modeling approach to produce a universal chromatin state annotation of the human genome using over 1000 datasets from more than 100 cell types, with the learned model denoted as the full-stack model. The full-stack model states show distinct enrichments for external genomic annotations, which we use in characterizing each state. Compared to per-cell-type annotations, the full-stack annotations directly differentiate constitutive from cell type-specific activity and is moremore »predictive of locations of external genomic annotations.


    The full-stack ChromHMM model provides a universal chromatin state annotation of the genome and a unified global view of over 1000 datasets. We expect this to be a useful resource that complements existing per-cell-type annotations for studying the non-coding human genome.

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  2. Comprehensive and accurate comparisons of transcriptomic distributions of cells from samples taken from two different biological states, such as healthy versus diseased individuals, are an emerging challenge in single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) analysis. Current methods for detecting differentially abundant (DA) subpopulations between samples rely heavily on initial clustering of all cells in both samples. Often, this clustering step is inadequate since the DA subpopulations may not align with a clear cluster structure, and important differences between the two biological states can be missed. Here, we introduce DA-seq, a targeted approach for identifying DA subpopulations not restricted to clusters. DA-seq is a multiscale method that quantifies a local DA measure for each cell, which is computed from its k nearest neighboring cells across a range of k values. Based on this measure, DA-seq delineates contiguous significant DA subpopulations in the transcriptomic space. We apply DA-seq to several scRNA-seq datasets and highlight its improved ability to detect differences between distinct phenotypes in severe versus mildly ill COVID-19 patients, melanomas subjected to immune checkpoint therapy comparing responders to nonresponders, embryonic development at two time points, and young versus aging brain tissue. DA-seq enabled us to detect differences between these phenotypes. Importantly, we findmore »that DA-seq not only recovers the DA cell types as discovered in the original studies but also reveals additional DA subpopulations that were not described before. Analysis of these subpopulations yields biological insights that would otherwise be undetected using conventional computational approaches.« less
  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. Abstract

    The advancement of single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) technology has enabled the direct inference of co-expressions in specific cell types, facilitating our understanding of cell-type-specific biological functions. For this task, the high sequencing depth variations and measurement errors in scRNA-seq data present two significant challenges, and they have not been adequately addressed by existing methods. We propose a statistical approach, CS-CORE, for estimating and testing cell-type-specific co-expressions, that explicitly models sequencing depth variations and measurement errors in scRNA-seq data. Systematic evaluations show that most existing methods suffered from inflated false positives as well as biased co-expression estimates and clustering analysis, whereas CS-CORE gave accurate estimates in these experiments. When applied to scRNA-seq data from postmortem brain samples from Alzheimer’s disease patients/controls and blood samples from COVID-19 patients/controls, CS-CORE identified cell-type-specific co-expressions and differential co-expressions that were more reproducible and/or more enriched for relevant biological pathways than those inferred from existing methods.

  5. Cell–cell interactions (CCI) play significant roles in manipulating biological functions of cells. Analyzing the differences in CCI between healthy and diseased conditions of a biological system yields greater insight than analyzing either conditions alone. There has been a recent and rapid growth of methods to infer CCI from single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), revealing complex CCI networks at a previously inaccessible scale. However, the majority of current CCI analyses from scRNA-seq data focus on direct comparisons between individual CCI networks of individual samples from patients, rather than “group-level” comparisons between sample groups of patients comprising different conditions. To illustrate new biological features among different disease statuses, we investigated the diversity of key network features on groups of CCI networks, as defined by different disease statuses. We considered three levels of network features: node level, as defined by cell type; node-to-node level; and network level. By applying these analysis to a large-scale single-cell RNA-sequencing dataset of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we observe biologically meaningful patterns aligned with the progression and subsequent convalescence of COVID-19.