Briefings in bioinformatics. 2021-07-20; 22.4:

FR-Match: robust matching of cell type clusters from single cell RNA sequencing data using the Friedman-Rafsky non-parametric test

Zhang Y, Aevermann BD, Bakken TE, Miller JA, Hodge RD, Lein ES, Scheuermann RH

PMID: 33249453


Single cell/nucleus RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) is emerging as an essential tool to unravel the phenotypic heterogeneity of cells in complex biological systems. While computational methods for scRNAseq cell type clustering have advanced, the ability to integrate datasets to identify common and novel cell types across experiments remains a challenge. Here, we introduce a cluster-to-cluster cell type matching method-FR-Match-that utilizes supervised feature selection for dimensionality reduction and incorporates shared information among cells to determine whether two cell type clusters share the same underlying multivariate gene expression distribution. FR-Match is benchmarked with existing cell-to-cell and cell-to-cluster cell type matching methods using both simulated and real scRNAseq data. FR-Match proved to be a stringent method that produced fewer erroneous matches of distinct cell subtypes and had the unique ability to identify novel cell phenotypes in new datasets. In silico validation demonstrated that the proposed workflow is the only self-contained algorithm that was robust to increasing numbers of true negatives (i.e. non-represented cell types). FR-Match was applied to two human brain scRNAseq datasets sampled from cortical layer 1 and full thickness middle temporal gyrus. When mapping cell types identified in specimens isolated from these overlapping human brain regions, FR-Match precisely recapitulated the laminar characteristics of matched cell type clusters, reflecting their distinct neuroanatomical distributions. An R package and Shiny application are provided at for users to interactively explore and match scRNAseq cell type clusters with complementary visualization tools.