With the advent of single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), it is possible to measure the expression dynamics of genes at the single-cell level. Through scRNA-seq, a huge amount of expression data for several thousand(s) of genes over million(s) of cells are generated in a single experiment. Differential expression analysis is the primary downstream analysis of such data to identify gene markers for cell type detection and also provide inputs to other secondary analyses. Many statistical approaches for differential expression analysis have been reported in the literature. Researchers from the University of Louisville critically discuss the underlying statistical principles of the approaches and distinctly divide them into six major classes, i.e., generalized linear, generalized additive, Hurdle, mixture models, two-class parametric, and non-parametric approaches. The researchers also succinctly discuss the limitations that are specific to each class of approaches, and how they are addressed by other subsequent classes of approach. A number of challenges are identified in this study that must be addressed to develop the next class of innovative approaches. Furthermore, the researchers also emphasize the methodological challenges involved in differential expression analysis of scRNA-seq data that researchers must address to draw maximum benefit from this recent single-cell technology. This study will serve as a guide to genome researchers and experimental biologists to objectively select options for their analysis.
Classification of available statistical approaches and tools used for DEA in single-cell studies
Classification of the approaches is conducted based on the requirement of input data, data distribution, and statistical models, etc. DE analytic tools belonging to each category are presented in pink colored boxes.