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  1. Abstract

    Quantitative assessment of single cell fluxome is critical for understanding the metabolic heterogeneity in diseases. Unfortunately, laboratory-based single cell fluxomics is currently impractical, and the current computational tools for flux estimation are not designed for single cell-level prediction. Given the well-established link between transcriptomic and metabolomic profiles, leveraging single cell transcriptomics data to predict single cell fluxome is not only feasible but also an urgent task. In this study, we present FLUXestimator, an online platform for predicting metabolic fluxome and variations using single cell or general transcriptomics data of large sample-size. The FLUXestimator webserver implements a recently developed unsupervised approach called single cell flux estimation analysis (scFEA), which uses a new neural network architecture to estimate reaction rates from transcriptomics data. To the best of our knowledge, FLUXestimator is the first web-based tool dedicated to predicting cell-/sample-wise metabolic flux and metabolite variations using transcriptomics data of human, mouse and 15 other common experimental organisms. The FLUXestimator webserver is available at http://scFLUX.org/, and stand-alone tools for local use are available at https://github.com/changwn/scFEA. Our tool provides a new avenue for studying metabolic heterogeneity in diseases and has the potential to facilitate the development of new therapeutic strategies.

     
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  2. Liu, Jie (Ed.)
    Metastatic cancer accounts for over 90% of all cancer deaths, and evaluations of metastasis potential are vital for minimizing the metastasis-associated mortality and achieving optimal clinical decision-making. Computational assessment of metastasis potential based on large-scale transcriptomic cancer data is challenging because metastasis events are not always clinically detectable. The under-diagnosis of metastasis events results in biased classification labels, and classification tools using biased labels may lead to inaccurate estimations of metastasis potential. This issue is further complicated by the unknown metastasis prevalence at the population level, the small number of confirmed metastasis cases, and the high dimensionality of the candidate molecular features. Our proposed algorithm, called P ositive and unlabeled L earning from U nbalanced cases and S parse structures ( PLUS ), is the first to use a positive and unlabeled learning framework to account for the under-detection of metastasis events in building a classifier. PLUS is specifically tailored for studying metastasis that deals with the unbalanced instance allocation as well as unknown metastasis prevalence, which are not considered by other methods. PLUS achieves superior performance on synthetic datasets compared with other state-of-the-art methods. Application of PLUS to The Cancer Genome Atlas Pan-Cancer gene expression data generated metastasis potential predictions that show good agreement with the clinical follow-up data, in addition to predictive genes that have been validated by independent single-cell RNA-sequencing datasets. 
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  3. Abstract

    Acid–base homeostasis is a fundamental property of living cells, and its persistent disruption in human cells can lead to a wide range of diseases. In this study, we conducted a computational modeling analysis of transcriptomic data of 4750 human tissue samples of 9 cancer types in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database. Built on our previous study, we quantitatively estimated the average production rate of OH− by cytosolic Fenton reactions, which continuously disrupt the intracellular pH (pHi) homeostasis. Our predictions indicate that all or at least a subset of 43 reprogrammed metabolisms (RMs) are induced to produce net protons (H+) at comparable rates of Fenton reactions to keep the pHi stable. We then discovered that a number of well-known phenotypes of cancers, including increased growth rate, metastasis rate, and local immune cell composition, can be naturally explained in terms of the Fenton reaction level and the induced RMs. This study strongly suggests the possibility to have a unified framework for studies of cancer-inducing stressors, adaptive metabolic reprogramming, and cancerous behaviors. In addition, strong evidence is provided to demonstrate that a popular view that Na+/H+ exchangers along with lactic acid exporters and carbonic anhydrases are responsible for the intracellular alkalization and extracellular acidification in cancer may not be justified.

     
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  4. Acid-base homeostasis is a fundamental property of living cells and its persistent disruption in human cells can lead to a wide range of diseases. We have conducted computational modeling and analysis of transcriptomic data of 4750 human tissue samples of nine cancer types in the TCGA database. Built on our previous study, we have quantitatively estimated the (average) production rate of OH− by cytosolic Fenton reactions, which continuously disrupt the intracellular pH homeostasis. Our predictions indicate that all or a subset of 43 reprogrammed metabolisms (RMs) are induced to produce net protons (H+) at comparable rates of Fenton reactions to keep the intracellular pH stable. We have then discovered that a number of well-known phenotypes of cancers, including increased growth rate, metastasis rate and local immune cell composition, can be naturally explained in terms of the Fenton reaction level and the induced RMs. This study strongly suggests the possibility to have a unified framework for studies of cancer-inducing stressors, adaptive metabolic reprogramming, and cancerous behaviors. In addition, strong evidence is provided to demonstrate that a popular view of that Na+/H+ exchangers, along with lactic acid exporters and carbonic anhydrases are responsible for the intracellular alkalization and extracellular acidification in cancer may not be justified. 
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  5. Abstract Identifying relationships between genetic variations and their clinical presentations has been challenged by the heterogeneous causes of a disease. It is imperative to unveil the relationship between the high-dimensional genetic manifestations and the clinical presentations, while taking into account the possible heterogeneity of the study subjects.We proposed a novel supervised clustering algorithm using penalized mixture regression model, called component-wise sparse mixture regression (CSMR), to deal with the challenges in studying the heterogeneous relationships between high-dimensional genetic features and a phenotype. The algorithm was adapted from the classification expectation maximization algorithm, which offers a novel supervised solution to the clustering problem, with substantial improvement on both the computational efficiency and biological interpretability. Experimental evaluation on simulated benchmark datasets demonstrated that the CSMR can accurately identify the subspaces on which subset of features are explanatory to the response variables, and it outperformed the baseline methods. Application of CSMR on a drug sensitivity dataset again demonstrated the superior performance of CSMR over the others, where CSMR is powerful in recapitulating the distinct subgroups hidden in the pool of cell lines with regards to their coping mechanisms to different drugs. CSMR represents a big data analysis tool with the potential to resolve the complexity of translating the clinical representations of the disease to the real causes underpinning it. We believe that it will bring new understanding to the molecular basis of a disease and could be of special relevance in the growing field of personalized medicine. 
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  6. In this paper, we propose a Spatial Robust Mixture Regression model to investigate the relationship between a response variable and a set of explanatory variables over the spatial domain, assuming that the relationships may exhibit complex spatially dynamic patterns that cannot be captured by constant regression coefficients. Our method integrates the robust finite mixture Gaussian regression model with spatial constraints, to simultaneously handle the spatial non-stationarity, local homogeneity, and outlier contaminations. Compared with existing spatial regression models, our proposed model assumes the existence a few distinct regression models that are estimated based on observations that exhibit similar response-predictor relationships. As such, the proposed model not only accounts for non-stationarity in the spatial trend, but also clusters observations into a few distinct and homogenous groups. This provides an advantage on interpretation with a few stationary sub-processes identified that capture the predominant relationships between response and predictor variables. Moreover, the proposed method incorporates robust procedures to handle contaminations from both regression outliers and spatial outliers. By doing so, we robustly segment the spatial domain into distinct local regions with similar regression coefficients, and sporadic locations that are purely outliers. Rigorous statistical hypothesis testing procedure has been designed to test the significance of such segmentation. Experimental results on many synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate the robustness, accuracy, and effectiveness of our proposed method, compared with other robust finite mixture regression, spatial regression and spatial segmentation methods. 
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  7. The metabolic heterogeneity and metabolic interplay between cells are known as significant contributors to disease treatment resistance. However, with the lack of a mature high-throughput single-cell metabolomics technology, we are yet to establish systematic understanding of the intra-tissue metabolic heterogeneity and cooperative mechanisms. To mitigate this knowledge gap, we developed a novel computational method, namely, single-cell flux estimation analysis (scFEA), to infer the cell-wise fluxome from single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) data. scFEA is empowered by a systematically reconstructed human metabolic map as a factor graph, a novel probabilistic model to leverage the flux balance constraints on scRNA-seq data, and a novel graph neural network–based optimization solver. The intricate information cascade from transcriptome to metabolome was captured using multilayer neural networks to capitulate the nonlinear dependency between enzymatic gene expressions and reaction rates. We experimentally validated scFEA by generating an scRNA-seq data set with matched metabolomics data on cells of perturbed oxygen and genetic conditions. Application of scFEA on this data set showed the consistency between predicted flux and the observed variation of metabolite abundance in the matched metabolomics data. We also applied scFEA on five publicly available scRNA-seq and spatial transcriptomics data sets and identified context- and cell group–specific metabolic variations. The cell-wise fluxome predicted by scFEA empowers a series of downstream analyses including identification of metabolic modules or cell groups that share common metabolic variations, sensitivity evaluation of enzymes with regards to their impact on the whole metabolic flux, and inference of cell–tissue and cell–cell metabolic communications. 
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  8. Abstract Deconvolution of mouse transcriptomic data is challenged by the fact that mouse models carry various genetic and physiological perturbations, making it questionable to assume fixed cell types and cell type marker genes for different data set scenarios. We developed a Semi-Supervised Mouse data Deconvolution (SSMD) method to study the mouse tissue microenvironment. SSMD is featured by (i) a novel nonparametric method to discover data set-specific cell type signature genes; (ii) a community detection approach for fixing cell types and their marker genes; (iii) a constrained matrix decomposition method to solve cell type relative proportions that is robust to diverse experimental platforms. In summary, SSMD addressed several key challenges in the deconvolution of mouse tissue data, including: (i) varied cell types and marker genes caused by highly divergent genotypic and phenotypic conditions of mouse experiment; (ii) diverse experimental platforms of mouse transcriptomics data; (iii) small sample size and limited training data source and (iv) capable to estimate the proportion of 35 cell types in blood, inflammatory, central nervous or hematopoietic systems. In silico and experimental validation of SSMD demonstrated its high sensitivity and accuracy in identifying (sub) cell types and predicting cell proportions comparing with state-of-the-arts methods. A user-friendly R package and a web server of SSMD are released via https://github.com/xiaoyulu95/SSMD. 
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