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Comprehensive integration of single cell data

By Tim Stuart, Andrew Butler, Paul Hoffman, Christoph Hafemeister, Efthymia Papalexi, William M. Mauck, Marlon Stoeckius, Peter Smibert, Rahul Satija

Posted 02 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/460147 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.031)

Single cell transcriptomics (scRNA-seq) has transformed our ability to discover and annotate cell types and states, but deep biological understanding requires more than a taxonomic listing of clusters. As new methods arise to measure distinct cellular modalities, including high-dimensional immunophenotypes, chromatin accessibility, and spatial positioning, a key analytical challenge is to integrate these datasets into a harmonized atlas that can be used to better understand cellular identity and function. Here, we develop a computational strategy to "anchor" diverse datasets together, enabling us to integrate and compare single cell measurements not only across scRNA-seq technologies, but different modalities as well. After demonstrating substantial improvement over existing methods for data integration, we anchor scRNA-seq experiments with scATAC-seq datasets to explore chromatin differences in closely related interneuron subsets, and project single cell protein measurements onto a human bone marrow atlas to annotate and characterize lymphocyte populations. Lastly, we demonstrate how anchoring can harmonize in-situ gene expression and scRNA-seq datasets, allowing for the transcriptome-wide imputation of spatial gene expression patterns, and the identification of spatial relationships between mapped cell types in the visual cortex. Our work presents a strategy for comprehensive integration of single cell data, including the assembly of harmonized references, and the transfer of information across datasets. Availability: Installation instructions, documentation, and tutorials are available at: https://www.satijalab.org/seurat

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