A Bayesian mixture model for the analysis of allelic expression in single cells

Nat Commun. 2019 Nov 15;10(1):5188. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13099-0.


Allele-specific expression (ASE) at single-cell resolution is a critical tool for understanding the stochastic and dynamic features of gene expression. However, low read coverage and high biological variability present challenges for analyzing ASE. We demonstrate that discarding multi-mapping reads leads to higher variability in estimates of allelic proportions, an increased frequency of sampling zeros, and can lead to spurious findings of dynamic and monoallelic gene expression. Here, we report a method for ASE analysis from single-cell RNA-Seq data that accurately classifies allelic expression states and improves estimation of allelic proportions by pooling information across cells. We further demonstrate that combining information across cells using a hierarchical mixture model reduces sampling variability without sacrificing cell-to-cell heterogeneity. We applied our approach to re-evaluate the statistical independence of allelic bursting and track changes in the allele-specific expression patterns of cells sampled over a developmental time course.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Mice
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Zygote / cytology
  • Zygote / growth & development
  • Zygote / metabolism*