Pan-cancer single-cell RNA-seq identifies recurring programs of cellular heterogeneity

Gabriela S. Kinker, Alissa C. Greenwald, Rotem Tal, Zhanna Orlova, Michael S. Cuoco, James M. McFarland, Allison Warren, Christopher Rodman, Jennifer A. Roth, Samantha A. Bender, Bhavna Kumar, James W. Rocco, Pedro A.C.M. Fernandes, Christopher C. Mader, Hadas Keren-Shaul, Alexander Plotnikov, Haim Barr, Aviad Tsherniak, Orit Rozenblatt-Rosen, Valery KrizhanovskySidharth V. Puram, Aviv Regev, Itay Tirosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Cultured cell lines are the workhorse of cancer research, but the extent to which they recapitulate the heterogeneity observed among malignant cells in tumors is unclear. Here we used multiplexed single-cell RNA-seq to profile 198 cancer cell lines from 22 cancer types. We identified 12 expression programs that are recurrently heterogeneous within multiple cancer cell lines. These programs are associated with diverse biological processes, including cell cycle, senescence, stress and interferon responses, epithelial–mesenchymal transition and protein metabolism. Most of these programs recapitulate those recently identified as heterogeneous within human tumors. We prioritized specific cell lines as models of cellular heterogeneity and used them to study subpopulations of senescence-related cells, demonstrating their dynamics, regulation and unique drug sensitivities, which were predictive of clinical response. Our work describes the landscape of heterogeneity within diverse cancer cell lines and identifies recurrent patterns of heterogeneity that are shared between tumors and specific cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1208-1218
Number of pages11
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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