Single-cell transcriptional profiling reveals the heterogenicity in colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is a highly heterogeneous disease. RNA profiles of bulk tumors have enabled transcriptional classification of CRC. However, such ways of sequencing can only target a cell colony and obscure the signatures of distinct cell populations. Alternatively, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), which can provide unbiased analysis of all cell types, opens the possibility to map cellular heterogeneity of CRC unbiasedly.

In this study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin utilized scRNA-seq to profile cells from cancer tissue of a CRC patient. Gene ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analyses were performed to understand the roles of genes within the clusters.

The 2824 cells were analyzed and categorized into 5 distinct clusters by scRNA-seq. For every cluster, specific cell markers can be applied, indicating each 1 of them different from another. The researchers discovered that the tumor of CRC displayed a clear sign of heterogenicity, while genes within each cluster serve different functions. GO term analysis also stated that different cluster’s relatedness towards the tumor of CRC differs. Three clusters participate in peripheral works in cells, including, energy transport, extracellular matrix generation, etc; Genes in other 2 clusters participate more in immunology processes. Lastly, trajectory plot analysis also supports the viewpoint, in that some clusters present in different states and pseudo-time, while others present in a single state or pseudo time. This analysis provides more insight into the heterogeneity of CRC, which can provide assistance to further researches on this topic.


Cell ranger analysis and monocle analysis reveals the distribution of 5 clusters.

Dai W, Zhou F, Tang D, Lin L, Zou C, Tan W, Dai Y. (2019) Single-cell transcriptional profiling reveals the heterogenicity in colorectal cancer. Medicine (Baltimore) 98(34):e16916. [article]

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