RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is widely used to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and reveal biological mechanisms underlying complex biological processes. RNA-seq is often performed on heterogeneous samples and the resulting DEGs do not necessarily indicate the cell-types where the differential expression occurred. While single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) methods solve this problem, technical and cost constraints currently limit its widespread use.
University of Toronto researchers have developed single cell Mapper (scMappR), a method that assigns cell-type specificity scores to DEGs obtained from bulk RNA-seq by leveraging cell-type expression data generated by scRNA-seq and existing deconvolution methods. After evaluating scMappR with simulated RNA-seq data and benchmarking scMappR using RNA-seq data obtained from sorted blood cells, the researchers asked if scMappR could reveal known cell-type specific changes that occur during kidney regeneration. scMappR appropriately assigned DEGs to cell-types involved in kidney regeneration, including a relatively small population of immune cells. While scMappR can work with user-supplied scRNA-seq data, the researchers curated scRNA-seq expression matrices for ∼100 human and mouse tissues to facilitate its stand-alone use with bulk RNA-seq data from these species. Overall, scMappR is a user-friendly R package that complements traditional differential gene expression analysis of bulk RNA-seq data.
Schematic of the data required to run scMappR
and the primary functionalities that scMappR provides
scMappR requires input RNA-seq count data, a list of differentially expressed genes, and a signature matrix (provided by the user or scMappR). For each gene, scMappR then makes cell-type expression independent of estimated cell-type proportions. scMappR then integrates cell-type expression, cell-type proportion, and the ratio of cell-type proportions between biological conditions to generate cell-weighted Fold-changes (cwFold-changes). These cwFold-changes are then visualized (bottom left) and re-ranked before scMappR computes and plots cell-type specific pathway analyses (bottom right).