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In Briefings in bioinformatics

Tissue immune cells have long been recognized as important regulators for the maintenance of balance in the body system. Quantification of the abundance of different immune cells will provide enhanced understanding of the correlation between immune cells and normal or abnormal situations. Currently, computational methods to predict tissue immune cell compositions from bulk transcriptomes have been largely developed. Therefore, summarizing the advantages and disadvantages is appropriate. In addition, an examination of the challenges and possible solutions for these computational models will assist the development of this field. The common hypothesis of these models is that the expression of signature genes for immune cell types might represent the proportion of immune cells that contribute to the tissue transcriptome. In general, we grouped all reported tools into three groups, including reference-free, reference-based scoring and reference-based deconvolution methods. In this review, a summary of all the currently reported computational immune cell quantification tools and their applications, limitations, and perspectives are presented. Furthermore, some critical problems are found that have limited the performance and application of these models, including inadequate immune cell type, the collinearity problem, the impact of the tissue environment on the immune cell expression level, and the deficiency of standard datasets for model validation. To address these issues, tissue specific training datasets that include all known immune cells, a hierarchical computational framework, and benchmark datasets including both tissue expression profiles and the abundances of all the immune cells are proposed to further promote the development of this field.

Chen Ziyi, Wu Aiping


computational deconvolution, machine learning, tissue immune cell, transcriptome