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Reconstruction of developmental landscapes by optimal-transport analysis of single-cell gene expression sheds light on cellular reprogramming.

By Geoffrey Schiebinger, Jian Shu, Marcin Tabaka, Brian Cleary, Vidya Subramanian, Aryeh Solomon, Siyan Liu, Stacie Lin, Peter Berube, Lia Lee, Jenny Chen, Justin Brumbaugh, Philippe Rigollet, Konrad Hochedlinger, Rudolf Jaenisch, Aviv Regev, Eric Lander

Posted 27 Sep 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/191056

Understanding the molecular programs that guide cellular differentiation during development is a major goal of modern biology. Here, we introduce an approach, WADDINGTON-OT, based on the mathematics of optimal transport, for inferring developmental landscapes, probabilistic cellular fates and dynamic trajectories from large-scale single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) data collected along a time course. We demonstrate the power of WADDINGTON-OT by applying the approach to study 65,781 scRNA-seq profiles collected at 10 time points over 16 days during reprogramming of fibroblasts to iPSCs. We construct a high-resolution map of reprogramming that rediscovers known features; uncovers new alternative cell fates including neural- and placental-like cells; predicts the origin and fate of any cell class; highlights senescent-like cells that may support reprogramming through paracrine signaling; and implicates regulatory models in particular trajectories. Of these findings, we highlight Obox6, which we experimentally show enhances reprogramming efficiency. Our approach provides a general framework for investigating cellular differentiation.

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