Deciphering Tumour Microenvironment of Liver Cancer through Deconvolution of Bulk RNA-Seq Data with Single-Cell Atlas

Shaoshi Zhang, Wendi Bacon, Maikel P. Peppelenbosch, Folkert van Kemenade, Andrew Peter Stubbs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Liver cancers give rise to a heavy burden on healthcare worldwide. Understanding the tumour microenvironment (TME) underpins the development of precision therapy. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technology has generated high-quality cell atlases of the TME, but its wider application faces enormous costs for various clinical circumstances. Fortunately, a variety of deconvolution algorithms can instead repurpose bulk RNA-seq data, alleviating the need for generating scRNA-seq datasets. In this study, we reviewed major public omics databases for relevance in this study and utilised eight RNA-seqs and one microarray dataset from clinical studies. To decipher the TME of liver cancer, we estimated the fractions of liver cell components by deconvoluting the samples with Cibersortx using three reference scRNA-seq atlases. We also confirmed that Cibersortx can accurately deconvolute cell types/subtypes of interest. Compared with non-tumorous liver, liver cancers showed multiple decreased cell types forming normal liver microarchitecture, as well as elevated cell types involved in fibrogenesis, abnormal angiogenesis, and disturbed immune responses. Survival analysis shows that the fractions of five cell types/subtypes significantly correlated with patient outcomes, indicating potential therapeutic targets. Therefore, deconvolution of bulk RNA-seq data with scRNA-seq atlas references can be a useful tool to help understand the TME.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2023

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