Single-cell alternative polyadenylation analysis delineates GABAergic neuron types

Yang Yang, Anirban Paul, Thao Nguyen Bach, Z. Josh Huang, Michael Q. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is emerging as an important mechanism in the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression across eukaryotic species. Recent studies have shown that APA plays key roles in biological processes, such as cell proliferation and differentiation. Single-cell RNA-seq technologies are widely used in gene expression heterogeneity studies; however, systematic studies of APA at the single-cell level are still lacking. Results: Here, we described a novel computational framework, SAPAS, that utilizes 3′-tag-based scRNA-seq data to identify novel poly(A) sites and quantify APA at the single-cell level. Applying SAPAS to the scRNA-seq data of phenotype characterized GABAergic interneurons, we identified cell type-specific APA events for different GABAergic neuron types. Genes with cell type-specific APA events are enriched for synaptic architecture and communications. In further, we observed a strong enrichment of heritability for several psychiatric disorders and brain traits in altered 3′ UTRs and coding sequences of cell type-specific APA events. Finally, by exploring the modalities of APA, we discovered that the bimodal APA pattern of Pak3 could classify chandelier cells into different subpopulations that are from different laminar positions. Conclusions: We established a method to characterize APA at the single-cell level. When applied to a scRNA-seq dataset of GABAergic interneurons, the single-cell APA analysis not only identified cell type-specific APA events but also revealed that the modality of APA could classify cell subpopulations. Thus, SAPAS will expand our understanding of cellular heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Plant Science
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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