Identifying phenotype-associated subpopulations by integrating bulk and single-cell sequencing data

Nat Biotechnol. 2022 Apr;40(4):527-538. doi: 10.1038/s41587-021-01091-3. Epub 2021 Nov 11.


Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) distinguishes cell types, states and lineages within the context of heterogeneous tissues. However, current single-cell data cannot directly link cell clusters with specific phenotypes. Here we present Scissor, a method that identifies cell subpopulations from single-cell data that are associated with a given phenotype. Scissor integrates phenotype-associated bulk expression data and single-cell data by first quantifying the similarity between each single cell and each bulk sample. It then optimizes a regression model on the correlation matrix with the sample phenotype to identify relevant subpopulations. Applied to a lung cancer scRNA-seq dataset, Scissor identified subsets of cells associated with worse survival and with TP53 mutations. In melanoma, Scissor discerned a T cell subpopulation with low PDCD1/CTLA4 and high TCF7 expression associated with an immunotherapy response. Beyond cancer, Scissor was effective in interpreting facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's disease datasets. Scissor identifies biologically and clinically relevant cell subpopulations from single-cell assays by leveraging phenotype and bulk-omics datasets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis*