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How to design a single-cell RNA-sequencing experiment: pitfalls, challenges and perspectives

Dal Molin, Alessandra; Di Camillo, Barbara

Date Published:





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July 19, 2019


PMID: 29394315


The sequencing of the transcriptome of single cells, or single-cell RNA-sequencing, has now become the dominant technology for the identification of novel cell types in heterogeneous cell populations or for the study of stochastic gene expression. In recent years, various experimental methods and computational tools for analysing single-cell RNA-sequencing data have been proposed. However, most of them are tailored to different experimental designs or biological questions, and in many cases, their performance has not been benchmarked yet, thus increasing the difficulty for a researcher to choose the optimal single-cell transcriptome sequencing (scRNA-seq) experiment and analysis workflow. In this review, we aim to provide an overview of the current available experimental and computational methods developed to handle single-cell RNA-sequencing data and, based on their peculiarities, we suggest possible analysis frameworks depending on specific experimental designs. Together, we propose an evaluation of challenges and open questions and future perspectives in the field. In particular, we go through the different steps of scRNA-seq experimental protocols such as cell isolation, messenger RNA capture, reverse transcription, amplification and use of quantitative standards such as spike-ins and Unique Molecular Identifiers (UMIs). We then analyse the current methodological challenges related to preprocessing, alignment, quantification, normalization, batch effect correction and methods to control for confounding effects.

Automatic Tags

experimental design; experimental protocols; normalization; single-cell RNA-seq; spike-ins; Unique Molecular Identifiers

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