Characterization of transcript enrichment and detection bias in single-nucleus RNA-seq for mapping of distinct human adipocyte lineages

Anushka Gupta, Farnaz Shamsi, Nicolas Altemose, Gabriel F. Dorlhiac, Aaron M. Cypess, Andrew P. White, Nir Yosef, Mary Elizabeth Patti, Yu Hua Tseng, Aaron Streets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) enables molecular characterization of complex biological tissues at high resolution. The requirement of single-cell extraction, however, makes it challenging for profiling tissues such as adipose tissue, for which collection of intact single adipocytes is complicated by their fragile nature. For such tissues, single-nucleus extraction is often much more efficient and therefore single-nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) presents an alternative to scRNA-seq. However, nuclear transcripts represent only a fraction of the transcriptome in a single cell, with snRNA-seq marked with inherent transcript enrichment and detection biases. Therefore, snRNA-seq may be inadequate for mapping important transcriptional signatures in adipose tissue. In this study, we compare the transcriptomic landscape of single nuclei isolated from preadipocytes and mature adipocytes across human white and brown adipocyte lineages, with whole-cell transcriptome. We show that snRNA-seq is capable of identifying the broad cell types present in scRNA-seq at all states of adipogenesis. However, we also explore how and why the nuclear transcriptome is biased and limited, as well as how it can be advantageous. We robustly characterize the enrichment of nuclear-localized transcripts and adipogenic regulatory lncRNAs in snRNA-seq, while also providing a detailed understanding for the preferential detection of long genes upon using this technique. To remove such technical detection biases, we propose a normalization strategy for a more accurate comparison of nuclear and cellular data. Finally, we show successful integration of scRNA-seq and snRNA-seq data sets with existing bioinformatic tools. Overall, our results illustrate the applicability of snRNA-seq for the characterization of cellular diversity in the adipose tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-257
Number of pages16
JournalGenome Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Adipocytes/cytology
  • Bias
  • Cell Lineage
  • Gene Expression Profiling/methods
  • Humans
  • RNA-Seq/methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis/methods
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics


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