Mapping and Validation of scRNA-Seq-Derived Cell-Cell Communication Networks in the Tumor Microenvironment

Front Immunol. 2022 Apr 28;13:885267. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.885267. eCollection 2022.


Recent advances in single-cell technologies, particularly single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), have permitted high throughput transcriptional profiling of a wide variety of biological systems. As scRNA-seq supports inference of cell-cell communication, this technology has and continues to anchor groundbreaking studies into the efficacy and mechanism of novel immunotherapies for cancer treatment. In this review, we will highlight methods developed to infer inter- and intracellular signaling from scRNA-seq and discuss how they have contributed to studies of immunotherapeutic intervention in the tumor microenvironment (TME). However, a central challenge remains in validating the hypothesized cell-cell interactions. Therefore, this review will also cover strategies for integration of these scRNA-seq-derived interaction networks with existing experimental and computational approaches. Integration of these networks with imaging, protein secretion measurements, and network analysis and mathematical modeling tools addresses challenges that remain with scRNA-seq to enhance studies of immunosuppressive and immunotherapy-altered signaling in the TME.

Keywords: cell-cell communication network; graph theory; immunotherapy; single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq); single-cell secretomics; spatial profiling; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication
  • Gene Expression Profiling* / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis* / methods
  • Tumor Microenvironment