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Accurate estimation of cell composition in bulk expression through robust integration of single-cell information

By Brandon Jew, Marcus Alvarez, Elior Rahmani, Zong Miao, Arthur Ko, Jae Hoon Sul, Kirsi H Pietiläinen, Päivi Pajukanta, Eran Halperin

Posted 15 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/669911 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15816-6)

We present Bisque, a tool for estimating cell type proportions in bulk expression. Bisque implements a regression-based approach that utilizes single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) data to generate a reference expression profile and learn gene-specific bulk expression transformations to robustly decompose RNA-seq data. These transformations significantly improve decomposition performance compared to existing methods when there is significant technical variation in the generation of the reference profile and observed bulk expression. Importantly, compared to existing methods, our approach is extremely efficient, making it suitable for the analysis of large genomic datasets that are becoming ubiquitous. When applied to subcutaneous adipose and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex expression datasets with both bulk RNA-seq and single-nucleus RNA-seq (snRNA-seq) data, Bisque was able to replicate previously reported associations between cell type proportions and measured phenotypes across abundant and rare cell types. Bisque requires a single-cell reference dataset that reflects physiological cell type composition and can further leverage datasets that includes both bulk and single cell measurements over the same samples for improved accuracy. We further propose an additional mode of operation that merely requires a set of known marker genes. Bisque is available as an R package at: https://github.com/cozygene/bisque.

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