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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Abstract

    Spinal motor neurons (MNs) integrate sensory stimuli and brain commands to generate movements. In vertebrates, the molecular identities of the cardinal MN types such as those innervating limb versus trunk muscles are well elucidated. Yet the identities of finer subtypes within these cell populations that innervate individual muscle groups remain enigmatic. Here we investigate heterogeneity in mouse MNs using single-cell transcriptomics. Among limb-innervating MNs, we reveal a diverse neuropeptide code for delineating putative motor pool identities. Additionally, we uncover that axial MNs are subdivided into three molecularly distinct subtypes, defined by mediolaterally-biased Satb2, Nr2f2 or Bcl11b expression patterns with different axon guidance signatures. These three subtypes are present in chicken and human embryos, suggesting a conserved axial MN expression pattern across higher vertebrates. Overall, our study provides a molecular resource of spinal MN types and paves the way towards deciphering how neuronal subtypes evolved to accommodate vertebrate motor behaviors.

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  4. Abstract

    Multimodal single-cell sequencing technologies provide unprecedented information on cellular heterogeneity from multiple layers of genomic readouts. However, joint analysis of two modalities without properly handling the noise often leads to overfitting of one modality by the other and worse clustering results than vanilla single-modality analysis. How to efficiently utilize the extra information from single cell multi-omics to delineate cell states and identify meaningful signal remains as a significant computational challenge. In this work, we propose a deep learning framework, named SAILERX, for efficient, robust, and flexible analysis of multi-modal single-cell data. SAILERX consists of a variational autoencoder with invariant representation learning to correct technical noises from sequencing process, and a multimodal data alignment mechanism to integrate information from different modalities. Instead of performing hard alignment by projecting both modalities to a shared latent space, SAILERX encourages the local structures of two modalities measured by pairwise similarities to be similar. This strategy is more robust against overfitting of noises, which facilitates various downstream analysis such as clustering, imputation, and marker gene detection. Furthermore, the invariant representation learning part enables SAILERX to perform integrative analysis on both multi- and single-modal datasets, making it an applicable and scalable tool for more general scenarios.

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  5. Abstract

    One major challenge in analyzing spatial transcriptomic datasets is to simultaneously incorporate the cell transcriptome similarity and their spatial locations. Here, we introduce SpaceFlow, which generates spatially-consistent low-dimensional embeddings by incorporating both expression similarity and spatial information using spatially regularized deep graph networks. Based on the embedding, we introduce a pseudo-Spatiotemporal Map that integrates the pseudotime concept with spatial locations of the cells to unravel spatiotemporal patterns of cells. By comparing with multiple existing methods on several spatial transcriptomic datasets at both spot and single-cell resolutions, SpaceFlow is shown to produce a robust domain segmentation and identify biologically meaningful spatiotemporal patterns. Applications of SpaceFlow reveal evolving lineage in heart developmental data and tumor-immune interactions in human breast cancer data. Our study provides a flexible deep learning framework to incorporate spatiotemporal information in analyzing spatial transcriptomic data.

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  6. Abstract

    Esophageal pathologies such as atresia and benign strictures often require surgical reconstruction with autologous tissues to restore organ continuity. Complications such as donor site morbidity and limited tissue availability have spurred the development of acellular grafts for esophageal tissue replacement. Acellular biomaterials for esophageal repair rely on the activation of intrinsic regenerative mechanisms to mediate de novo tissue formation at implantation sites. Previous research has identified signaling cascades involved in neoepithelial formation in a rat model of onlay esophagoplasty with acellular silk fibroin grafts, including phosphoinositide 3‐kinase (PI3K), and protein kinase B (Akt) signaling. However, it is currently unknown how these mechanisms are governed by DNA methylation (DNAme) during esophageal wound healing processes. Reduced‐representation bisulfite sequencing is performed to characterize temporal DNAme dynamics in host and regenerated tissues up to 1 week postimplantation. Overall, global hypermethylation is observed at postreconstruction timepoints and an inverse correlation between promoter DNAme and the expression levels of differentially expressed proteins during regeneration. Site‐specific hypomethylation targets genes associated with immune activation, while hypermethylation occurs within gene bodies encoding PI3K‐Akt signaling components during the tissue remodeling period. The data provide insight into the epigenetic mechanisms during esophageal regeneration following surgical repair with acellular grafts.

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  7. Abstract

    The rapid development of spatial transcriptomics (ST) techniques has allowed the measurement of transcriptional levels across many genes together with the spatial positions of cells. This has led to an explosion of interest in computational methods and techniques for harnessing both spatial and transcriptional information in analysis of ST datasets. The wide diversity of approaches in aim, methodology and technology for ST provides great challenges in dissecting cellular functions in spatial contexts. Here, we synthesize and review the key problems in analysis of ST data and methods that are currently applied, while also expanding on open questions and areas of future development.

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  8. Abstract

    The effects of adjuvants for increasing the immunogenicity of influenza vaccines are well known. However, the effect of adjuvants on increasing the breadth of cross-reactivity is less well understood. In this study we have performed a systematic screen of different toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists, with and without a squalene-in-water emulsion on the immunogenicity of a recombinant trimerized hemagglutinin (HA) vaccine in mice after single-dose administration. Antibody (Ab) cross-reactivity for other variants within and outside the immunizing subtype (homosubtypic and heterosubtypic cross-reactivity, respectively) was assessed using a protein microarray approach. Most adjuvants induced broad IgG profiles, although the response to a combination of CpG, MPLA and AddaVax (termed ‘IVAX-1’) appeared more quickly and reached a greater magnitude than the other formulations tested. Antigen-specific plasma cell labeling experiments show the components of IVAX-1 are synergistic. This adjuvant preferentially stimulates CD4 T cells to produce Th1>Th2 type (IgG2c>IgG1) antibodies and cytokine responses. Moreover, IVAX-1 induces identical homo- and heterosubtypic IgG and IgA cross-reactivity profiles when administered intranasally. Consistent with these observations, a single-cell transcriptomics analysis demonstrated significant increases in expression of IgG1, IgG2b and IgG2c genes of B cells in H5/IVAX-1 immunized mice relative to naïve mice, as well as significant increases in expression of the IFNγ gene of both CD4 and CD8 T cells. These data support the use of adjuvants for enhancing the breath and durability of antibody responses of influenza virus vaccines.

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  9. Abstract

    Advances in single-cell technologies allow scrutinizing of heterogeneous cell states, however, detecting cell-state transitions from snap-shot single-cell transcriptome data remains challenging. To investigate cells with transient properties or mixed identities, we present MuTrans, a method based on multiscale reduction technique to identify the underlying stochastic dynamics that prescribes cell-fate transitions. By iteratively unifying transition dynamics across multiple scales, MuTrans constructs the cell-fate dynamical manifold that depicts progression of cell-state transitions, and distinguishes stable and transition cells. In addition, MuTrans quantifies the likelihood of all possible transition trajectories between cell states using coarse-grained transition path theory. Downstream analysis identifies distinct genes that mark the transient states or drive the transitions. The method is consistent with the well-established Langevin equation and transition rate theory. Applying MuTrans to datasets collected from five different single-cell experimental platforms, we show its capability and scalability to robustly unravel complex cell fate dynamics induced by transition cells in systems such as tumor EMT, iPSC differentiation and blood cell differentiation. Overall, our method bridges data-driven and model-based approaches on cell-fate transitions at single-cell resolution.

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  10. Abstract

    Genetic mutations to the Lamin A/C gene (LMNA) can cause heart disease, but the mechanisms making cardiac tissues uniquely vulnerable to the mutations remain largely unknown. Further, patients withLMNAmutations have highly variable presentation of heart disease progression and type.In vitropatient-specific experiments could provide a powerful platform for studying this phenomenon, but the use of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CM) introduces heterogeneity in maturity and function thus complicating the interpretation of the results of any single experiment. We hypothesized that integrating single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) with analysis of the tissue architecture and contractile function would elucidate some of the probable mechanisms. To test this, we investigated five iPSC-CM lines, three controls and two patients with a (c.357-2A>G) mutation. The patient iPSC-CM tissues had significantly weaker stress generation potential than control iPSC-CM tissues demonstrating the viability of ourin vitroapproach. Through scRNA-seq, differentially expressed genes between control and patient lines were identified. Some of these genes, linked to quantitative structural and functional changes, were cardiac specific, explaining the targeted nature of the disease progression seen in patients. The results of this work demonstrate the utility of combiningin vitrotools in exploring heart disease mechanics.

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