WebCSEA: web-based cell-type-specific enrichment analysis of genes

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 May 24;gkac392. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkac392. Online ahead of print.


Human complex traits and common diseases show tissue- and cell-type- specificity. Recently, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technology has successfully depicted cellular heterogeneity in human tissue, providing an unprecedented opportunity to understand the context-specific expression of complex trait-associated genes in human tissue-cell types (TCs). Here, we present the first web-based application to quickly assess the cell-type-specificity of genes, named Web-based Cell-type Specific Enrichment Analysis of Genes (WebCSEA, available at https://bioinfo.uth.edu/webcsea/). Specifically, we curated a total of 111 scRNA-seq panels of human tissues and 1,355 TCs from 61 different general tissues across 11 human organ systems. We adapted our previous decoding tissue-specificity (deTS) algorithm to measure the enrichment for each tissue-cell type (TC). To overcome the potential bias from the number of signature genes between different TCs, we further developed a permutation-based method that accurately estimates the TC-specificity of a given inquiry gene list. WebCSEA also provides an interactive heatmap that displays the cell-type specificity across 1355 human TCs, and other interactive and static visualizations of cell-type specificity by human organ system, developmental stage, and top-ranked tissues and cell types. In short, WebCSEA is a one-click application that provides a comprehensive exploration of the TC-specificity of genes among human major TC map.