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, 14 (10), 979-982

Reversed Graph Embedding Resolves Complex Single-Cell Trajectories


Reversed Graph Embedding Resolves Complex Single-Cell Trajectories

Xiaojie Qiu et al. Nat Methods.


Single-cell trajectories can unveil how gene regulation governs cell fate decisions. However, learning the structure of complex trajectories with multiple branches remains a challenging computational problem. We present Monocle 2, an algorithm that uses reversed graph embedding to describe multiple fate decisions in a fully unsupervised manner. We applied Monocle 2 to two studies of blood development and found that mutations in the genes encoding key lineage transcription factors divert cells to alternative fates.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Monocle 2 discovers a cryptic alternative outcome in myoblast differentiation
(A) Monocle 2 learns single-cell trajectories by reversed graph embedding. Each cell can be represented as a point in a high-dimensional space where each dimension corresponds to the expression level of an ordering gene. The high dimensional data are first projected to a lower dimensional space (Z) by any of several dimension reduction methods such as PCA (default), diffusion maps, etc. Monocle 2 then constructs a spanning tree on an automatically selected set of centroids of the data. The number of centroids (black diamonds) is determined using a formula that scales sublinearly in the number of cells. These centroids are chosen automatically using k-medoids clustering in the initialized low-dimensional space. The algorithm then moves the cells towards their nearest vertex of the tree, updates the positions of the vertices to “fit” the cells, learns a new spanning tree, and iteratively continues this process until the tree and the positions of the cells have converged (see Equation 3 in Methods). Throughout this process, Monocle 2 maintains an invertible map between the high-dimensional space and the low-dimensional one, thus both learning the trajectory and reducing the dimensionality of the data. In effect, the algorithm acts as soft K-means clustering on points Z that maps them to the centroids, and jointly learns a graph on the centroids. Once Monocle 2 learns the tree, the user selects a tip as the “root”. Each cell’s pseudotime is calculated as its geodesic distance along the tree to the root, and its branch is automatically assigned based on the principal graph. (B) Monocle 1 reconstructs a linear trajectory for differentiating human skeletal myoblasts (HSMM). (C) Monocle 2 automatically learns the underlying trajectory and detects that cells from 24–72 hours are divided into two branches. The same genes selected with dpFeature (Supplementary Figure 1; Methods) were used for ordering for both of Monocle 1 and Monocle 2. (D) Accuracy of pseudotime calculation or branch assignments from each algorithm under repeated subsamples of 80% of the cells on the Paul dataset. A marker based ordering (see Methods) is used as ground truth for results from each software in all downsamplings to compare with. (E) Consistency of pseudotime calculation or branch assignments from each algorithm under repeated subsamples of 80% of the cells on the Paul dataset. All pairwise downsamplings are used to calculate the Pearson’s Rho and adjusted Rand index (ARI). Monocle 2, DPT, and Wishbone all use the full dataset for benchmark while Monocle 1 only uses a random downsampled 300 cells as for benchmarking.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Genetic perturbations divert cells to alternative outcomes in Monocle 2 trajectories
(A) Monocle 2 trajectory of differentiating blood cells collected by Olsson et al. Each subpanel corresponds to cells collected from a particular FACS gate in the experiment. Cells are colored according to their classification by the authors of the original study. (B) Cells with a single knockout of Irf8 or Gfi1 are diverted into the alternative granulocyte or monocyte branch, respectively. Double knockout cells are localized to both granulocyte and monocyte branches but concentrated near the branch point. Two branch points are identified, one that divides the erythroid or megakaryocyte outcome (FE) from the granulocyte/monocyte progenitors (GMP), which then branches to the monocyte (FM) and granulocyte (FG) outcomes. All trajectories are reconstructed in four dimensions selected based variance explained by each PCA but rendered in two dimensions using layout_as_tree() from the igraph package.

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