Database Overview

Since the rise of single-cell RNA sequencing technology in 2009, the era has witnessed it's rapid development. Benefit from the unprecedented single cell resolution, researchers now have a powerful tool to deeply parse the cell heterogeneities and their inner molecular mechanisms during the whole processes of reproduction, individual development, immunoregulation and carcinogenesis, etc. Therefore, a large number of single-cell RNA sequencing projects were consecutively carried out, and exponential data have been accumulated over the past decade. Meanwhile, several single cell databases were also developed for the integrated mining of these valuable data.

In view of the different origin, different tissue source, different analytical pipeline of these huge volumes of single-cell RNA-Seq data, it was challenging for researchers to effectively integrate them and thereby extract valuable knowledge. Facing the high incidence of diverse cancers worldwide, the starting point of this database was to widely collect currently available single-cell RNA-Seq datasets for different human cancer types, and further studied the immune profiles and gene expression dynamics in the specific tumor microenvironments. Thus, we can compare the cell components and the expression of many functional molecules between different cancer types, and ultimately dig out some novel superior immune checkpoints which can be used in the future clinical immunotherapy for the particular types of cancer.

Single-cell Data Source

Through the widely survey of currently available omics databases, single-cell databases and public literatures, CancerSCEM has collected the raw sequencing data or expression matrix of hundreds of cancer related single-cell RNA-Seq datasets from NCBI (GEO), ArrayExpress (EBI), Single Cell Expression Atlas – EBI, Panglaodb, CancerSEA, Single Cell Portal - Broad Institute, SCPortalen and several literatures about cancer single-cell researches etc. Figure 1 on the right side has shown the data summary including raw data sources, the number of high-quality cells in each sample (orange histograms on the outer circle with the maximum equal to 28,764) and the abbreviation of their respective cancer types.

In summary, the single-cell RNA-Seq data of a total of 208 cancer samples were collected and all the analytical results were cataloged into the database. They have covered a total of 20 human cancer types, and 5 construction protocols have been used. After the sequencing read and cell quality control by filtering low quality cells with significantly abnormal gene expression levels or high mitochondria RNA percentages, a total of 638,341 high quality cells have been reserved.

Figure 1. Statistics of cancer single cell RNA-Seq datasets

Data Process Workflow

CancerSCEM has been working on widely collecting single-cell RNA-Seq datasets for various types of human cancers, and performing multi-level analysis on each dataset. While for the data from different construction protocols, different workflows should been built so that to obtain the optimal analytical results. As 10X Genomics platform has its own auxiliary processing software Cell Ranger, we thus adopted Cell Ranger v5.0 to handle with all 10X Genomics datasets. The remaining datasets from all other protocols like Smart-Seq2 and Drop-Seq were all processed by zUMIs v2.9.4f (reads mapping with STAR).

After the gene expression matrix (UMI counts) was generated, the R package DoubletFinder v2.0.2 was applied to doublets removal, and a widely used package Seurat v3.2.3 was utilized to perform cell quality control, PCA dimension reduction, tSNE and UMAP clustering with personalized principal component numbers and clustering resolutions, etc. Next, scCancer v2.2.0, CopyKAT v1.0.4, SingleR v1.4.1 combined with manual annotations using dozens of marker genes(Table 1) were paralleled used to identify malignant cells, subtypes of immune cells and several other cell types in each dataset. Finally, the 'FindMarkers' function in Seurat was ultilized to perform differential gene expression analysis for each specific cell type, and GO and KEGG enrichments were further performed. CancerSCEM additionally collected hundreds of key functional molecules including receptor genes, ligand genes, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes from multiple data sources like CelltalkDB, SingleCellSingalR, Cellinker, Cell-Cell Interaction Database, Cancer Gene Census, OncoKB, Network of Cancer Genes, TSGene, IntOGene, etc, and their expression patterns would be shown on the general analysis page for sample.

In downstream, cell-cell interaction networks were built by CellphoneDB, survival analysis of the same or similar cancer types have been performed based on the bulk RNA-Seq data and clinical survival data from TCGA. Figure 2 has shown the overview of the data processing.

Figure 2. Overview of the data procession for 10X Genomics datasets and other datasets from Smart-Seq2, Drop-Seq, etc.

Table 1. Cell-type specific marker genes used by CancerSCEM

Cell type Cell-type specific markers
Astrocyte AGXT2L1, GFAP, ALDOC, SLC1A3, AGT, ALDH1L1
B cell CD19, MS4A1, BANK1, BLK, IRF8, ABCB4, ABCB9, AFF4, AIDA, AIM2
Endothelial cell VWF, PECAM1, CDH5, VEGFA, FLT1, ECSCR, ACYP1, ADGRL2, SELE, ICAM1
Epithelial cell CDH1, MYLK, ANKRD30A, ABCA13, ABCB10, ADGB, SFTPB, SFTPC
Erythrocyte ALAS2, CA1, HBB, HBE1, HBA1, HBG1, GYPA
Fibroblast COL1A1, COL3A1, THY1, NECTIN1, FAP, PTPN13, C5AR2, LRP1
GMP CD38, KIT, ADK, CD123, ALDH4A1, ANXA1, AP3S1, APLP2, APPL1, AREG, ASPM, CDKN3, CLSPN, DEPDC7, MCM10, MUCB2, SDC4, RMI2
HSC CD34, ITGA5, PROM1, CD105, VCAM1, CD164, THY1, KIT, ACE, CMAH, ABCG2, CD41, ALDH1A1, BMI1
Macro/Mono/DC CD68, CD14, MRC1, BHLHE40, CD93, CREM, CSF1R, CCL18, ICAM4, ACPP, ACSL3, ADGRE2, ADGRE3, CD209, CD83, CD1A
Malignant cell EPCAM, FOLH1, KLK3, KRT8, KRT18, KRT19
Mast cell SLC18A2, ADIRF, ASIC4, BACE2, ENPP3, CADPS, CAPN3, CDK15, CMA1, GCSAML, MAML1, MAOB, CAVIN2
Myeloid cell PTPRC, CD14, AIF1, TYROBP, CD163
Neuron STMN2, RBFOX3, MAP2, TUBB3, CSF3, DLG4, ENO2
Neutrophil ADGRG3, CXCL8, FCGR3B, MNDA, USP10, CSF3R, ANXA3, AQP9, BTNL8, LGALS13, G0S2, NFE4, IL5RA
NK cell FCGR3A, KLRB1, KLRD1, NKG7, XCL1, XCL2, NCR3, NCR1, CD247, GZMB, KLRC1, KLRK1
Oligodendrocyte MOG, OLIG1, OLIG2, PDGFRA, PLP1, MBP, MAG, SOX10
Plasma cell MZB1, BRSK1, AC026202.3, JSRP1, LINC00582, PARM1, TAS1R3
Progenitor CD38, CASR, ALDH, CAR, KDR, MME, FLT3, CD90, CD123
T cell CD3D, CD3G, CD3E

Database Statistics

  • Cancer Type Distribution
  • Construction Protocol Distribution
  • Cell Count per Sample
  • Cell Type Distribution

Database Usage

  • Browse
  • Once clicking on the 'Project Browse' button in the navigation bar, an overview table of all collected cancer single-cell RNA-Seq projects will be shown, with the information ranging from unique project ID, cancer type, project hold country, sample ID, sample details, cell count to library construction protocol, the last two characters in the newly assigned sample ID respectively represented 1A - 10X Genomics, 1B - Smart-Seq2, 1C - Drop-Seq, 1D - Microwell and 1E - Seq-Well. Moreover, the 'Sample Details' and 'Analysis' columns in the table will provide hyperlinks to the detailed information of the tumor sample and its general analysis results for each dataset, respectively.

    According to the order of the left-hand navigation on the general analysis page, multiple levels of analytical results would be presented including 'Data Statistics and tSNE/UMAP Visualization', 'Tumor Microenvironment' and 'Functional Genes' Expression' (receptor genes, ligand genes, oncogenes and TSGs). All results were shown in tables or figures, and all static figures in the database can be zoomed in by simply clicking on it. Attention, several cell types were abbreviated as follows: CD4+ central memory T cells (CD4+ Tcm), CD4+ effector memory T cells (CD4+ Tem), CD8+ central memory T cells (CD8+ Tcm), CD8+ effector memory T cells (CD8+ Tem), Regulatory T cells (Tregs), Natural killer cells (NK cells), Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), Granulocyte macrophage progenitors (GMPs).

  • Search
  • CancerSCEM provided several search channels as follows:

    a) Quick search on the home page: provided user real-time querying service merely by cancer type, gene symbol or gene ID. The corresponding projects/samples with their analysis results and the overall expression patterns of the target gene would be generated.

    b) Advanced search on the search page: there are 4 modules user can utilize to seek for their interested projects/samples or specific genes. For projects, user can specify a definite project ID, sample ID or a known accession No., or select a particular cancer type (abbreviation) or a construction protocol, the overview and also details of the target projects/samples will thus been obtained. For genes, inputting a gene symbol or gene ID would trigger an instant query to the database, in return its expression profiles in both single-cell and bulk RNA-Seq level to endpoint user.

    c) Keyword cloud was also provided on the home page, each word will link to a browse or analysis page with the detailed information of the selected word, it's highly intuitive and easy-to-use for user.

  • Online analyze
  • Online analyze is the most characteristic module in the database. Two analyze modules were equipped: Gene analyze module and Sample analyze module. Gene module mainly focused on the 1) Gene Expression (GE) in Sample - whole expression profiles of target gene in specified cancer single-cell sample and 2) GE in Subtypes - it's expression in different cell subtypes in the sample, 3) GE Correlation - gene expression correlation analysis in the specific sample and 4) GE Comparison - expression comparison between different single-cell RNA-Seq or TCGA bulk RNA-Seq datasets. Sample module included three analyze functions: 1) Cell Component Comparison - cell type component comparison between single-cell samples, 2) Cell Interaction - interaction network construction between different cell types and 3) Survival Analysis - survival analysis based on TCGA bulk RNA-Seq data and clinical survival data.

    No matter in gene analyze module or sample analyze module, user need to specify the unique sample ID, a gene symbol or gene ID, and several alternative parameters like figure colors and the number of cell interaction pairs were also supplied. All analytical results could be displayed in real time in this module.

  • Downloads
  • Original metadata, normalized gene expression matrix, cell component for each single-cell dataset and differential expression gene list for each cell subtype were available for download, and most of the figures and tables in analysis page could be exported to user's local computer.