Integrative analysis of single-cell expression data reveals distinct regulatory states in bidirectional promoters

Epigenetics Chromatin. 2018 Nov 10;11(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s13072-018-0236-7.


Background: Bidirectional promoters (BPs) are prevalent in eukaryotic genomes. However, it is poorly understood how the cell integrates different epigenomic information, such as transcription factor (TF) binding and chromatin marks, to drive gene expression at BPs. Single-cell sequencing technologies are revolutionizing the field of genome biology. Therefore, this study focuses on the integration of single-cell RNA-seq data with bulk ChIP-seq and other epigenetics data, for which single-cell technologies are not yet established, in the context of BPs.

Results: We performed integrative analyses of novel human single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) data with bulk ChIP-seq and other epigenetics data. scRNA-seq data revealed distinct transcription states of BPs that were previously not recognized. We find associations between these transcription states to distinct patterns in structural gene features, DNA accessibility, histone modification, DNA methylation and TF binding profiles.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that a complex interplay of all of these elements is required to achieve BP-specific transcriptional output in this specialized promoter configuration. Further, our study implies that novel statistical methods can be developed to deconvolute masked subpopulations of cells measured with different bulk epigenomic assays using scRNA-seq data.

Keywords: Bidirectional genes; Epigenetics; Single-cell RNA-seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Histone Code
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • Transcription Factors