scTenifoldKnk: An efficient virtual knockout tool for gene function predictions via single-cell gene regulatory network perturbation.
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Gene knockout (KO) experiments are a proven, powerful approach for studying gene function. However, systematic KO experiments targeting a large number of genes are usually prohibitive due to the limit of experimental and animal resources. Here, we present scTenifoldKnk, an efficient virtual KO tool that enables systematic KO investigation of gene function using data from single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). In scTenifoldKnk analysis, a gene regulatory network (GRN) is first constructed from scRNA-seq data of wild-type samples, and a target gene is then virtually deleted from the constructed GRN. Manifold alignment is used to align the resulting reduced GRN to the original GRN to identify differentially regulated genes, which are used to infer target gene functions in analyzed cells. We demonstrate that the scTenifoldKnk-based virtual KO analysis recapitulates the main findings of real-animal KO experiments and recovers the expected functions of genes in relevant cell types.