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Single-cell states versus single-cell atlases—two classes of heterogeneity that differ in meaning and method

Janes, K.A.

Recent advances have created new opportunities to dissect cellular heterogeneity at the omics level. The enthusiasm for deep single-cell profiling has obscured a discussion of different types of heterogeneity and the most-appropriate techniques for studying each type. Here, I distinguish heterogeneity in regulation from heterogeneity in lineage. Snapshots of lineage heterogeneity provide a cell atlas that catalogs cellular diversity within complex tissues. Profiles of regulatory heterogeneity seek to interrogate one lineage deeply to capture an ensemble of single-cell states. Single-cell atlases require molecular signatures from many cells at a throughput afforded by mass cytometry-based, microfluidic-based, and microencapsulation-based methods. Single-cell states are more dependent on time, microenvironment, and low-abundance transcripts, emphasizing in situ methods that stress depth of profiling and quantitative accuracy.

Citation

Janes, K.A. "Single-cell states versus single-cell atlases—two classes of heterogeneity that differ in meaning and method" Current Opinion in Biotechnology (2016): 120–5