Context-dependent gene regulatory network reveals regulation dynamics and cell trajectories using unspliced transcripts

Yueh Hua Tu, Hsueh Fen Juan*, Hsuan Cheng Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Gene regulatory networks govern complex gene expression programs in various biological phenomena, including embryonic development, cell fate decisions and oncogenesis. Single-cell techniques are increasingly being used to study gene expression, providing higher resolution than traditional approaches. However, inferring a comprehensive gene regulatory network across different cell types remains a challenge. Here, we propose to construct context-dependent gene regulatory networks (CDGRNs) from single-cell RNA sequencing data utilizing both spliced and unspliced transcript expression levels. A gene regulatory network is decomposed into subnetworks corresponding to different transcriptomic contexts. Each subnetwork comprises the consensus active regulation pairs of transcription factors and their target genes shared by a group of cells, inferred by a Gaussian mixture model. We find that the union of gene regulation pairs in all contexts is sufficient to reconstruct differentiation trajectories. Functions specific to the cell cycle, cell differentiation or tissue-specific functions are enriched throughout the developmental process in each context. Surprisingly, we also observe that the network entropy of CDGRNs decreases along differentiation trajectories, indicating directionality in differentiation. Overall, CDGRN allows us to establish the connection between gene regulation at the molecular level and cell differentiation at the macroscopic level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbac633
JournalBriefings in Bioinformatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Gaussian mixture model
  • gene regulatory network
  • single-cell RNA sequencing
  • trajectory analysis


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