Identification of Intercellular Signaling Changes Across Conditions and Their Influence on Intracellular Signaling Response From Multiple Single-Cell Datasets

Front Genet. 2021 Nov 11;12:751158. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.751158. eCollection 2021.


Identification of intercellular signaling changes across multiple single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets as well as how intercellular communications affect intracellular transcription factors (TFs) to regulate target genes is crucial in understanding how distinct cell states respond to evolution, perturbations, and diseases. Here, we first generalized our previously developed tool CellChat, enabling flexible comparison analysis of cell-cell communication networks across any number of scRNA-seq datasets from interrelated biological conditions. This greatly facilitates the ready detection of signaling changes of cell-cell communication in response to any biological perturbations. We then investigated how intercellular communications affect intracellular signaling response by inferring a multiscale signaling network which bridges the intercellular communications at the population level and the cell state-specific intracellular signaling network at the molecular level. The latter is constructed by integrating receptor-TF interactions collected from public databases and TF-target gene regulations inferred from a network-regularized regression model. By applying our approaches to three scRNA-seq datasets from skin development, spinal cord injury, and COVID-19, we demonstrated the capability of our approaches in identifying the predominant signaling changes across conditions and the critical signaling mechanisms regulating target gene expression. Together, our work will facilitate the identification of both intercellular and intracellular dysregulated signaling mechanisms responsible for biological perturbations in diverse tissues.

Keywords: comparison analysis; dysregulated signaling; intercellular communication; intracellular signaling; multiscale signaling network; scRNA-seq data.