Inferring phenotypic properties from single-cell characteristics

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37038. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037038. Epub 2012 May 25.


Flow cytometry provides multi-dimensional data at the single-cell level. Such data contain information about the cellular heterogeneity of bulk samples, making it possible to correlate single-cell features with phenotypic properties of bulk tissues. Predicting phenotypes from single-cell measurements is a difficult challenge that has not been extensively studied. The 6th Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods (DREAM6) invited the research community to develop solutions to a computational challenge: classifying acute myeloid leukemia (AML) positive patients and healthy donors using flow cytometry data. DREAM6 provided flow cytometry data for 359 normal and AML samples, and the class labels for half of the samples. Researchers were asked to predict the class labels of the remaining half. This paper describes one solution that was constructed by combining three algorithms: spanning-tree progression analysis of density-normalized events (SPADE), earth mover's distance, and a nearest-neighbor classifier called Relief. This solution was among the top-performing methods that achieved 100% prediction accuracy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / diagnosis*
  • Phenotype*