PloS one. 2022-09-23; 17.9: e0275070.

Machine learning for cell type classification from single nucleus RNA sequencing data

Le H, Peng B, Uy J, Carrillo D, Zhang Y, Aevermann BD, Scheuermann RH

PMID: 36149937


With the advent of single cell/nucleus RNA sequencing (sc/snRNA-seq), the field of cell phenotyping is now a data-driven exercise providing statistical evidence to support cell type/state categorization. However, the task of classifying cells into specific, well-defined categories with the empirical data provided by sc/snRNA-seq remains nontrivial due to the difficulty in determining specific differences between related cell types with close transcriptional similarities, resulting in challenges with matching cell types identified in separate experiments. To investigate possible approaches to overcome these obstacles, we explored the use of supervised machine learning methods-logistic regression, support vector machines, random forests, neural networks, and light gradient boosting machine (LightGBM)-as approaches to classify cell types using snRNA-seq datasets from human brain middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and human kidney. Classification accuracy was evaluated using an F-beta score weighted in favor of precision to account for technical artifacts of gene expression dropout. We examined the impact of hyperparameter optimization and feature selection methods on F-beta score performance. We found that the best performing model for granular cell type classification in both datasets is a multinomial logistic regression classifier and that an effective feature selection step was the most influential factor in optimizing the performance of the machine learning pipelines.