by Xiao Zheng, Yuan Huang, Xiufen Zou
Disease development and cell differentiation both involve dynamic changes; therefore, the reconstruction of dynamic gene regulatory networks (DGRNs) is an important but difficult problem in systems biology. With recent technical advances in single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), large volumes of scRNA-seq data are being obtained for various processes. However, most current methods of inferring DGRNs from bulk samples may not be suitable for scRNA-seq data. In this work, we present scPADGRN, a novel DGRN inference method using “time-series” scRNA-seq data. scPADGRN combines the preconditioned alternating direction method of multipliers with cell clustering for DGRN reconstruction. It exhibits advantages in accuracy, robustness and fast convergence. Moreover, a quantitative index called Differentiation Genes’ Interaction Enrichment (DGIE) is presented to quantify the interaction enrichment of genes related to differentiation. From the DGIE scores of relevant subnetworks, we infer that the functions of embryonic stem (ES) cells are most active initially and may gradually fade over time. The communication strength of known contributing genes that facilitate cell differentiation increases from ES cells to terminally differentiated cells. We also identify several genes responsible for the changes in the DGIE scores occurring during cell differentiation based on three real single-cell datasets. Our results demonstrate that single-cell analyses based on network inference coupled with quantitative computations can reveal key transcriptional regulators involved in cell differentiation and disease development.