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12 Janelia Publications

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    03/22/18 | Continuous Variation within Cell Types of the Nervous System.
    Cembrowski MS, Menon V
    Trends in Neurosciences. 2018 Mar 22:. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.02.010

    The brain is an organ of immense complexity. Next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is becoming increasingly popular in the deconstruction of this complexity into distinct classes of 'cell types'. Notably, in addition to revealing the organization of this distinct cell-type landscape, the technology has also begun to illustrate that continuous variation can be found within narrowly defined cell types. Here we summarize the evidence for graded transcriptomic heterogeneity being present, widespread, and functionally relevant in the nervous system. We explain how these graded differences can map onto higher-order organizational features and how they may reframe existing interpretations of higher-order heterogeneity. Ultimately, a multimodal approach incorporating continuously variable cell types will facilitate an accurate reductionist interpretation of the nervous system.

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    12/11/17 | Clustering single cells: a review of approaches on high-and low-depth single-cell RNA-seq data.
    Menon V
    Briefings in Functional Genomics. 2017 Dec 11:. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elx044

    Advances in single-cell RNA-sequencing technology have resulted in a wealth of studies aiming to identify transcriptomic cell types in various biological systems. There are multiple experimental approaches to isolate and profile single cells, which provide different levels of cellular and tissue coverage. In addition, multiple computational strategies have been proposed to identify putative cell types from single-cell data. From a data generation perspective, recent single-cell studies can be classified into two groups: those that distribute reads shallowly over large numbers of cells and those that distribute reads more deeply over a smaller cell population. Although there are advantages to both approaches in terms of cellular and tissue coverage, it is unclear whether different computational cell type identification methods are better suited to one or the other experimental paradigm. This study reviews three cell type clustering algorithms, each representing one of three broad approaches, and finds that PCA-based algorithms appear most suited to low read depth data sets, whereas gene clustering-based and biclustering algorithms perform better on high read depth data sets. In addition, highly related cell classes are better distinguished by higher-depth data, given the same total number of reads; however, simultaneous discovery of distinct and similar types is better served by lower-depth, higher cell number data. Overall, this study suggests that the depth of profiling should be determined by initial assumptions about the diversity of cells in the population, and that the selection of clustering algorithm(s) is subsequently based on the depth of profiling will allow for better identification of putative transcriptomic cell types.

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    07/16/14 | A high-resolution spatiotemporal atlas of gene expression of the developing mouse brain.
    Thompson CL, Ng L, Menon V, Martinez S, Lee C, Glattfelder K, Sunkin SM, Henry A, Lau C, Dang C, Garcia-Lopez R, Martinez-Ferre A, Pombero A, Rubenstein JL, Wakeman WB, Hohmann J, Dee N, Sodt AJ, Young R, Smith K, Nguyen T, Kidney J, Kuan L, Jeromin A, Kaykas A, Miller J, Page D, Orta G, Bernard A, Riley Z, Smith S, Wohnoutka P, Hawrylycz MJ, Puelles L, Jones AR
    Neuron. 2014 Jul 16;83(2):309-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.033

    To provide a temporal framework for the genoarchitecture of brain development, we generated in situ hybridization data for embryonic and postnatal mouse brain at seven developmental stages for ∼2,100 genes, which were processed with an automated informatics pipeline and manually annotated. This resource comprises 434,946 images, seven reference atlases, an ontogenetic ontology, and tools to explore coexpression of genes across neurodevelopment. Gene sets coinciding with developmental phenomena were identified. A temporal shift in the principles governing the molecular organization of the brain was detected, with transient neuromeric, plate-based organization of the brain present at E11.5 and E13.5. Finally, these data provided a transcription factor code that discriminates brain structures and identifies the developmental age of a tissue, providing a foundation for eventual genetic manipulation or tracking of specific brain structures over development. The resource is available as the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas (

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    06/04/14 | Modeling proteins using a super-secondary structure library and NMR chemical shift information.
    Menon V, Vallat BK, Dybas JM, Fiser A
    Structure (London, England : 1993). 2013 Jun 4;21(6):891-9. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2013.04.012

    A remaining challenge in protein modeling is to predict structures for sequences with no sequence similarity to any experimentally solved structure. Based on earlier observations, the library of protein backbone supersecondary structure motifs (Smotifs) saturated about a decade ago. Therefore, it should be possible to build any structure from a combination of existing Smotifs with the help of limited experimental data that are sufficient to relate the backbone conformations of Smotifs between target proteins and known structures. Here, we present a hybrid modeling algorithm that relies on an exhaustive Smotif library and on nuclear magnetic resonance chemical shift patterns without any input of primary sequence information. In a test of 102 proteins, the algorithm delivered 90 homology-model-quality models, among them 24 high-quality ones, and a topologically correct solution for almost all cases. The current approach opens a venue to address the modeling of larger protein structures for which chemical shifts are available.

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    02/24/14 | Improving reliability and absolute quantification of human brain microarray data by filtering and scaling probes using RNA-Seq.
    Miller JA, Menon V, Goldy J, Kaykas A, Lee C, Smith KA, Shen EH, Phillips JW, Lein ES, Hawrylycz MJ
    BMC genomics. 2014;15:154. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-154

    BACKGROUND: High-throughput sequencing is gradually replacing microarrays as the preferred method for studying mRNA expression levels, providing nucleotide resolution and accurately measuring absolute expression levels of almost any transcript, known or novel. However, existing microarray data from clinical, pharmaceutical, and academic settings represent valuable and often underappreciated resources, and methods for assessing and improving the quality of these data are lacking.

    RESULTS: To quantitatively assess the quality of microarray probes, we directly compare RNA-Seq to Agilent microarrays by processing 231 unique samples from the Allen Human Brain Atlas using RNA-Seq. Both techniques provide highly consistent, highly reproducible gene expression measurements in adult human brain, with RNA-Seq slightly outperforming microarray results overall. We show that RNA-Seq can be used as ground truth to assess the reliability of most microarray probes, remove probes with off-target effects, and scale probe intensities to match the expression levels identified by RNA-Seq. These sequencing scaled microarray intensities (SSMIs) provide more reliable, quantitative estimates of absolute expression levels for many genes when compared with unscaled intensities. Finally, we validate this result in two human cell lines, showing that linear scaling factors can be applied across experiments using the same microarray platform.

    CONCLUSIONS: Microarrays provide consistent, reproducible gene expression measurements, which are improved using RNA-Seq as ground truth. We expect that our strategy could be used to improve probe quality for many data sets from major existing repositories.

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    12/18/13 | Balanced synaptic impact via distance-dependent synapse distribution and complementary expression of AMPARs and NMDARs in hippocampal dendrites.
    Menon V, Musial TF, Liu A, Katz Y, Kath WL, Spruston N, Nicholson DA
    Neuron. 2013 Dec 18;80:1451-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.09.027

    Neuronal computation involves the integration of synaptic inputs that are often distributed over expansive dendritic trees, suggesting the need for compensatory mechanisms that enable spatially disparate synapses to influence neuronal output. In hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, such mechanisms have indeed been reported, which normalize either the ability of distributed synapses to drive action potential initiation in the axon or their ability to drive dendritic spiking locally. Here we report that these mechanisms can coexist, through an elegant combination of distance-dependent regulation of synapse number and synaptic expression of AMPA and NMDA receptors. Together, these complementary gradients allow individual dendrites in both the apical and basal dendritic trees of hippocampal neurons to operate as facile computational subunits capable of supporting both global integration in the soma/axon and local integration in the dendrite.

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    10/11/13 | Dynamic Bayesian clustering.
    Fowler A, Menon V, Heard NA
    Journal of bioinformatics and computational biology. 2013 Oct;11(5):1342001. doi: 10.1142/S0219720013420018

    Clusters of time series data may change location and memberships over time; in gene expression data, this occurs as groups of genes or samples respond differently to stimuli or experimental conditions at different times. In order to uncover this underlying temporal structure, we consider dynamic clusters with time-dependent parameters which split and merge over time, enabling cluster memberships to change. These interesting time-dependent structures are useful in understanding the development of organisms or complex organs, and could not be identified using traditional clustering methods. In cell cycle data, these time-dependent structure may provide links between genes and stages of the cell cycle, whilst in developmental data sets they may highlight key developmental transitions.

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    10/09/13 | The influence of synaptic weight distribution on neuronal population dynamics.
    Iyer R, Menon V, Buice M, Koch C, Mihalas S
    PLoS computational biology. 2013 Oct;9(10):e1003248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003248

    The manner in which different distributions of synaptic weights onto cortical neurons shape their spiking activity remains open. To characterize a homogeneous neuronal population, we use the master equation for generalized leaky integrate-and-fire neurons with shot-noise synapses. We develop fast semi-analytic numerical methods to solve this equation for either current or conductance synapses, with and without synaptic depression. We show that its solutions match simulations of equivalent neuronal networks better than those of the Fokker-Planck equation and we compute bounds on the network response to non-instantaneous synapses. We apply these methods to study different synaptic weight distributions in feed-forward networks. We characterize the synaptic amplitude distributions using a set of measures, called tail weight numbers, designed to quantify the preponderance of very strong synapses. Even if synaptic amplitude distributions are equated for both the total current and average synaptic weight, distributions with sparse but strong synapses produce higher responses for small inputs, leading to a larger operating range. Furthermore, despite their small number, such synapses enable the network to respond faster and with more stability in the face of external fluctuations.

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    11/24/11 | Multi-scale correlation structure of gene expression in the brain.
    Hawrylycz M, Ng L, Page D, Morris J, Lau C, Faber S, Faber V, Sunkin S, Menon V, Lein E, Jones A
    Neural networks : the official journal of the International Neural Network Society. 2011 Nov;24(9):933-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2011.06.012

    The mammalian brain is best understood as a multi-scale hierarchical neural system, in the sense that connection and function occur on multiple scales from micro to macro. Modern genomic-scale expression profiling can provide insight into methodologies that elucidate this architecture. We present a methodology for understanding the relationship of gene expression and neuroanatomy based on correlation between gene expression profiles across tissue samples. A resulting tool, NeuroBlast, can identify networks of genes co-expressed within or across neuroanatomic structures. The method applies to any data modality that can be mapped with sufficient spatial resolution, and provides a computation technique to elucidate neuroanatomy via patterns of gene expression on spatial and temporal scales. In addition, from the perspective of spatial location, we discuss a complementary technique that identifies gene classes that contribute to defining anatomic patterns.

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    11/01/11 | Frozen tissue can provide reproducible proteomic results of subcellular fractionation.
    Lim J, Menon V, Bitzer M, Miller LM, Madrid-Aliste C, Weiss LM, Fiser A, Angeletti RH
    Analytical biochemistry. 2011 Nov 1;418(1):78-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2011.06.045

    Differential detergent fractionation (DDF) is frequently used to partition fresh cells and tissues into distinct compartments. We have tested whether DDF can reproducibly extract and fractionate cellular protein components from frozen tissues. Frozen kidneys were sequentially extracted with three different buffer systems. Analysis of the three fractions with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) identified 1693 proteins, some of which were common to all fractions and others of which were unique to specific fractions. Normalized spectral index (SI(N)) values obtained from these data were compared to evaluate both the reproducibility of the method and the efficiency of enrichment. SI(N) values between replicate fractions demonstrated a high correlation, confirming the reproducibility of the method. Correlation coefficients across the three fractions were significantly lower than those for the replicates, supporting the capability of DDF to differentially fractionate proteins into separate compartments. Subcellular annotation of the proteins identified in each fraction demonstrated a significant enrichment of cytoplasmic, cell membrane, and nuclear proteins in the three respective buffer system fractions. We conclude that DDF can be applied to frozen tissue to generate reproducible proteome coverage discriminating subcellular compartments. This demonstrates the feasibility of analyzing cellular compartment-specific proteins in archived tissue samples with the simple DDF method.

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