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On the discovery of population-specific state transitions
from multi-sample multi-condition scRNA-seq data

This repository contains all the necessary code to perform the evaluations and analyses from our preprint available on bioRxiv.

Analyses discussed in the Differential state analysis of mouse cortex exposed to LPS treatment results section are provided as a browsable workflowr1 website HERE.


For installation of the required libraries, we'll fist install the r BiocStyle::Biocpkg("BiocManager") package:


The code in this repository was developed using R v3.6.2 and Bioconductor v3.10. Versions of R and Bioconductor that are currently being run should be checked via:


Finally, the code chunk below will install all package dependencies:

# install 'ggrastr' from GitHub

# install packages from CRAN & Bioconductor
pkgs <- c("AnnotationDbi","circlize","countsimQC","cowplot","data.table",
BiocManager::install(pkgs, ask = FALSE)


R version and library have to be specified under R in the config.yaml file (e.g., R: "R_LIBS_USER=/path/to/library /path/to/R/executable"). If you run into any issues, I recommend running the specified character string from the command line and assuring that the outputs of version and .libPaths() are what you expect them to be.

Without modifications, the Snakemake comparison relies on 2 reference datasets for data simulation, method execution and comparison. These (or any other references) have to be downloaded, saved as .rds objects with appropriate names, and placed inside the data/raw_data directory. This is exemplified here for the Kang et al. reference used in the preprint:

# install & load 'ExperimentHub'

# initialize hub instance
eh <- ExperimentHub()

# list data available in 'muscData'
(q <- query(eh, c("Kang", "muscData")))

# load 'SingleCellExperiment's using IDs from above
sce <- eh[[q$ah_id]]

# save as .rds; name should be '<id>_sce0.rds'
fn <- "kang_sce0.rds"
dir <- file.path("...", "data", "raw_data")
saveRDS(sce, file.path(dir, fn))

Finally, execution of the Snakemake file requires running the setup.R script once to create all required directories as well as simulation, method and run parameters:

# from within R

# from the terminal
Rscript setup.R

The Snakemake should run now. A couple more points to note:

  1. sim/run/meth_pars.R in the scripts are re-exected with every Snakemake run, and any changes made to them will automatically be recognized (e.g., when a new simulation scenario or method is added).
  2. Running the whole workflow is computationally expensive (~3 days using 40 cores). For development purposes, with recommend limiting to 1 reference, fewer simulation replicates and/or fewer genes per simulation. Most importantly, at least initially, including one or no mixed model based methods will greatly speed things up!

How to...

  1. add a new reference
    • <id>_sce0.rds has to be in place as described above
    • "<id>" has to be added under dids in the config.yaml file
    • a scripts/prep_<id>.R has to be added to, for example, assure unique sample identifiers exist, remove un-assigned cells or cell multiplets etc.
  2. skip an existing reference
    • simply remove the corresponding ID under dids in config.yaml
  3. add a new method
    • for a single method, add a new line (with unique identifier) for that method in the corresponding data.frame constructed in scripts/meth_pars.R
    • for a new group of methods, add id under ids in the first line of scripts/meth_pars.R and code to construct a data.frame of appropriate format (must include a id column; see current methods for examples). Secondly, add a apply_<id>.R script under scripts that takes as input a SCE with colData columns cluster/sample/group_id and returns a data.frame with p_adj.loc and p_adj.glb values for each cluster-gene (see current apply_x.R scripts for exmples)
  4. skip an existing method
    • to exclude a group of methods, comment out the corresponding ids in the first line of scripts/meth_pars.R (e.g., to skip all mixed model based methods, one would comment out "mm")
    • to exclude a single method, remove that method from the corresponding data.frame in scripts/meth_pars.R

Workflow structure in detail

In brief, our Snakemake workflow for method comparison is organized into

  • a config.yaml file specify key parameters and directories
  • a scripts folder housing all utilized scripts (see below)
  • a data folder containing raw (reference) and simulated data
  • a meta folder for simulation, runmode, and method parameters
  • a results folder where all results are generated (as .rds files)
  • a plots folder where all output plots are generated
    (as .pdf or .png and .rds files for ggplot objects)

The table below summarizes the different R scripts in scripts:

script description
prep_X generates a references SCE for simulation by
i) keeping samples from one condition only; and,
ii) unifying relevant cell metadata names to "cluster/sample/group_id"
prep_sim prepares a reference SCE for simulation by
i) retaining subpopulation-sample combinations with at least 100 cells; and,
ii) estimating cell / gene parameters (offsets / coefficients and dispersions)
sim_pars for ea. simulation ID, generates a .json file in meta/sim_pars
that specifies simulation parameters (e.g., prob. of DS, nb. of simulation replicates)
run_pars for ea. reference and simulation ID, generates a .json file in meta/run_pars
that specifies runmode parameters (e.g., nb. of cells/genes to sample, nb. of run replicates)
meth_pars for ea. method ID, generates a .json file in meta/meth_pars
that specifies method parameters
sim_data provided with a reference dataset and simulation parameters,
simulates data and writes a SCE to data/sim_data
apply_X wrapper to run DS method of type X (pb, mm, ad, mast, scdd)
run_meth reads in simulated data, method parameters, and performs DS analysis
by running the corresponding apply_X script
run_meth_lps wrapper to apply method to the LPS dataset
plot_null for ea. reference ID, plots nominal p-value distributions for all null simulations
plot_perf_cat plots TPR-FDR-points across DD categories for ea. p-value adjustment type (p_adj.loc/glb)
plot_perf_by_nx plots TPR-FDR-points across the nb. of x (cells = c, samples = s)
plot_perf_by_xs plots TPR-FDR-points across increasingly unbalanced sample/group-sizes
plot_perf_by_expr plots TPR-FDR-points across expression-level groups
plot_upset plots an upset plot for the top gene-subpopulation combinations across methods and simulation replications
plot_lfc scatter plots of simulated vs. estimated logFC stratified by method and DD category
plot_pb_mean_disp provided with a reference dataset, simulates a null dataset (no DS, no type-genes)
and plots pseudobulk-level mean-dispersion estimates for simulated vs. reference data
plot_runtimes barplots of runtimes vs. nb. of genes/cells
utils various helpers for data handling, formatting, and plotting
session_info generates a .txt file capturing the output of session_info()


[1]: John Blischak, Peter Carbonetto and Matthew Stephens (2019).
workflowr: A Framework for Reproducible and Collaborative Data Science.
R package version 1.4.0.