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  1. Abstract

    Time-series single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets provide unprecedented opportunities to learn dynamic processes of cellular systems. Due to the destructive nature of sequencing, it remains challenging to link the scRNA-seq snapshots sampled at different time points. Here we present TIGON, a dynamic, unbalanced optimal transport algorithm that reconstructs dynamic trajectories and population growth simultaneously as well as the underlying gene regulatory network from multiple snapshots. To tackle the high-dimensional optimal transport problem, we introduce a deep learning method using a dimensionless formulation based on the Wasserstein–Fisher–Rao (WFR) distance. TIGON is evaluated on simulated data and compared with existing methods for its robustness and accuracy in predicting cell state transition and cell population growth. Using three scRNA-seq datasets, we show the importance of growth in the temporal inference, TIGON’s capability in reconstructing gene expression at unmeasured time points and its applications to temporal gene regulatory networks and cell–cell communication inference.

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  2. Abstract

    Spatial gene expression in tissue is characterized by regions in which particular genes are enriched or depleted. Frequently, these regions contain nested inside them subregions with distinct expression patterns. Segmentation methods in spatial transcriptomic (ST) data extract disjoint regions maximizing similarity over the greatest number of genes, typically on a particular spatial scale, thus lacking the ability to find region-within-region structure. We present NeST, which extracts spatial structure through coexpression hotspots—regions exhibiting localized spatial coexpression of some set of genes. Coexpression hotspots identify structure on any spatial scale, over any possible subset of genes, and are highly explainable. NeST also performs spatial analysis of cell-cell interactions via ligand-receptor, identifying active areas de novo without restriction of cell type or other groupings, in both two and three dimensions. Through application on ST datasets of varying type and resolution, we demonstrate the ability of NeST to reveal a new level of biological structure.

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  3. Abstract

    Cells make decisions through their communication with other cells and receiving signals from their environment. Using single-cell transcriptomics, computational tools have been developed to infer cell–cell communication through ligands and receptors. However, the existing methods only deal with signals sent by the measured cells in the data, the received signals from the external system are missing in the inference. Here, we present exFINDER, a method that identifies such external signals received by the cells in the single-cell transcriptomics datasets by utilizing the prior knowledge of signaling pathways. In particular, exFINDER can uncover external signals that activate the given target genes, infer the external signal-target signaling network (exSigNet), and perform quantitative analysis on exSigNets. The applications of exFINDER to scRNA-seq datasets from different species demonstrate the accuracy and robustness of identifying external signals, revealing critical transition-related signaling activities, inferring critical external signals and targets, clustering signal-target paths, and evaluating relevant biological events. Overall, exFINDER can be applied to scRNA-seq data to reveal the external signal-associated activities and maybe novel cells that send such signals.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  5. High-dimensional multimodal data arises in many scientific fields. The integration of multimodal data becomes challenging when there is no known correspondence between the samples and the features of different datasets. To tackle this challenge, we introduce AVIDA, a framework for simultaneously performing data alignment and dimension reduction. In the numerical experiments, Gromov-Wasserstein optimal transport and t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding are used as the alignment and dimension reduction modules respectively. We show that AVIDA correctly aligns high-dimensional datasets without common features with four synthesized datasets and two real multimodal single-cell datasets. Compared to several existing methods, we demonstrate that AVIDA better preserves structures of individual datasets, especially distinct local structures in the joint low-dimensional visualization, while achieving comparable alignment performance. Such a property is important in multimodal single-cell data analysis as some biological processes are uniquely captured by one of the datasets. In general applications, other methods can be used for the alignment and dimension reduction modules. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    Neural communication networks form the fundamental basis for brain function. These communication networks are enabled by emitted ligands such as neurotransmitters, which activate receptor complexes to facilitate communication. Thus, neural communication is fundamentally dependent on the transcriptome. Here we develop NeuronChat, a method and package for the inference, visualization and analysis of neural-specific communication networks among pre-defined cell groups using single-cell expression data. We incorporate a manually curated molecular interaction database of neural signaling for both human and mouse, and benchmark NeuronChat on several published datasets to validate its ability in predicting neural connectivity. Then, we apply NeuronChat to three different neural tissue datasets to illustrate its functionalities in identifying interneural communication networks, revealing conserved or context-specific interactions across different biological contexts, and predicting communication pattern changes in diseased brains with autism spectrum disorder. Finally, we demonstrate NeuronChat can utilize spatial transcriptomics data to infer and visualize neural-specific cell-cell communication.

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  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  8. Spatial transcriptomic technologies and spatially annotated single-cell RNA sequencing datasets provide unprecedented opportunities to dissect cell–cell communication (CCC). However, incorporation of the spatial information and complex biochemical processes required in the reconstruction of CCC remains a major challenge. Here, we present COMMOT (COMMunication analysis by Optimal Transport) to infer CCC in spatial transcriptomics, which accounts for the competition between different ligand and receptor species as well as spatial distances between cells. A collective optimal transport method is developed to handle complex molecular interactions and spatial constraints. Furthermore, we introduce downstream analysis tools to infer spatial signaling directionality and genes regulated by signaling using machine learning models. We apply COMMOT to simulation data and eight spatial datasets acquired with five different technologies to show its effectiveness and robustness in identifying spatial CCC in data with varying spatial resolutions and gene coverages. Finally, COMMOT identifies new CCCs during skin morphogenesis in a case study of human epidermal development. 
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