Optimal sequencing budget allocation for trajectory reconstruction of single cells

Noa Moriel, Edvin Memet, Mor Nitzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Charting cellular trajectories over gene expression is key to understanding dynamic cellular processes and their underlying mechanisms. While advances in single-cell RNA-sequencing technologies and computational methods have pushed forward the recovery of such trajectories, trajectory inference remains a challenge due to the noisy, sparse, and high-dimensional nature of single-cell data. This challenge can be alleviated by increasing either the number of cells sampled along the trajectory (breadth) or the sequencing depth, i.e. the number of reads captured per cell (depth). Generally, these two factors are coupled due to an inherent breadth-depth tradeoff that arises when the sequencing budget is constrained due to financial or technical limitations. RESULTS: Here we study the optimal allocation of a fixed sequencing budget to optimize the recovery of trajectory attributes. Empirical results reveal that reconstruction accuracy of internal cell structure in expression space scales with the logarithm of either the breadth or depth of sequencing. We additionally observe a power law relationship between the optimal number of sampled cells and the corresponding sequencing budget. For linear trajectories, non-monotonicity in trajectory reconstruction across the breadth-depth tradeoff can impact downstream inference, such as expression pattern analysis along the trajectory. We demonstrate these results for five single-cell RNA-sequencing datasets encompassing differentiation of embryonic stem cells, pancreatic beta cells, hepatoblast and multipotent hematopoietic cells, as well as induced reprogramming of embryonic fibroblasts into neurons. By addressing the challenges of single-cell data, our study offers insights into maximizing the efficiency of cellular trajectory analysis through strategic allocation of sequencing resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)i446-i452
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2024

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Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press.


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