RNA microarrays and RNA-seq are now standard technologies to study the transcriptional activity of cells. Most studies focus on tracking transcriptional changes caused by specific experimental conditions. Information referring to genes up- and downregulation is evaluated analyzing the behaviour of relatively large population of cells by averaging its properties. However, even assuming perfect sample homogeneity, different subpopulations of cells can exhibit diverse transcriptomic profiles, as they may follow different regulatory/signaling pathways. The purpose of this study is to provide a novel methodological scheme to account for possible internal, functional heterogeneity in homogeneous cell lines, including cancer.
University of Warsaw researchers propose a novel computational method to infer the proportion between subpopulations of cells that manifest various functional behaviour in a given sample. This method was validated using two datasets from RNA microarray experiments. Both experiments aimed to examine cell viability in specific experimental conditions. The presented methodology can be easily extended to RNA-seq data as well as other molecular processes. Moreover, it complements standard tools to indicate most important networks from transcriptomic data and in particular could be useful in the analysis of cancer cell lines affected by biologically active compounds or drugs.