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In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ; h5-index 0.0

Understanding circuit organization depends on identification of cell types. Recent advances in transcriptional profiling methods have enabled classification of cell types by their gene expression. While exceptionally powerful and high throughput, the ground-truth validation of these methods is difficult: If cell type is unknown, how does one assess whether a given analysis accurately captures neuronal identity? To shed light on the capabilities and limitations of solely using transcriptional profiling for cell-type classification, we performed 2 forms of transcriptional profiling-RNA-seq and quantitative RT-PCR, in single, unambiguously identified neurons from 2 small crustacean neuronal networks: The stomatogastric and cardiac ganglia. We then combined our knowledge of cell type with unbiased clustering analyses and supervised machine learning to determine how accurately functionally defined neuron types can be classified by expression profile alone. The results demonstrate that expression profile is able to capture neuronal identity most accurately when combined with multimodal information that allows for post hoc grouping, so analysis can proceed from a supervised perspective. Solely unsupervised clustering can lead to misidentification and an inability to distinguish between 2 or more cell types. Therefore, this study supports the general utility of cell identification by transcriptional profiling, but adds a caution: It is difficult or impossible to know under what conditions transcriptional profiling alone is capable of assigning cell identity. Only by combining multiple modalities of information such as physiology, morphology, or innervation target can neuronal identity be unambiguously determined.

Northcutt Adam J, Kick Daniel R, Otopalik Adriane G, Goetz Benjamin M, Harris Rayna M, Santin Joseph M, Hofmann Hans A, Marder Eve, Schulz David J

2019-Dec-05

RNA-seq, expression profiling, qPCR, stomatogastric