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The mouse is a major model system for studying cancer and many other areas of biology. According to the 10x website, there are almost as many cancer single-cell studies on mouse subjects as on humans.

Previously, we have shown that with prior haplotype information, Numbat can detect allele-specific CNVs at a much higher accuracy [1]. Although we don’t usually know the haplotype of a given human subject a priori, it can be “guessed” statistically using population-based phasing. The resulting haplotypes are reasonably accurate within short blocks (<1Mb), but are subject to switch errors over a longer range. The mouse is a special case because the haplotypes of most common laboratory strains are fully known (thanks to the mouse genome projects [2,3]). This means that all heterozygous SNPs in a F1 hybrid mouse of two inbred strains are fully phased at whole-genome level. In addition, the SNP density in a F1 hybrid mouse can be many times higher than in humans [2]. As we will see, these factors provide a huge advantage for haplotype-aware CNV analysis.

The most updated version of Numbat (v1.2.0) now accepts (F1 hybrid) mouse data. The input format is the same as usual (expression counts in a matrix, allele counts in a long dataframe), but some bioinformatics is required to prepare the phased allele counts. This tutorial will walk through data prepration to analyze a mouse PDAC scRNA-seq dataset provided by Pitter et al [4].

Preparing input

1. Prepare the VCF

First, find out the parental strains of your F1 mouse. In the case of Pitter et al, the mice are of C57BL/6 x Sv129 mixed genetic background. This is convenient because the genome of C57BL/6 (aka Eve the mouse) is the mm10 reference genome. This means that all heterozygous SNPs in the F1 are the homozygous SNPs in Sv129. To create the F1 VCF, we just need to take the Sv129 VCF and change the genotype of homozygous SNPs (1/1) to heterozygous (1/0).

The VCFs of common lab mouse strains are available on UCSC portal. I downloaded the all-strain VCF (mgpV5MergedSNPsAlldbSNP142.vcf.gz) and extracted the passed homozygous sites for Sv129 using bcftools:

bcftools view mgpV5MergedSNPsAlldbSNP142.vcf.gz -c1 -s 129S1_SvImJ \
    -i "%FILTER='PASS'" | \
    bcftools annotate -Oz -x INFO,^FORMAT/GT > 129S1_SvImJ.sites.vcf.gz

We can then use 129S1_SvImJ.sites.vcf.gz as the VCF for our F1 mouse (except that all GT has to be changed to 1/0).

Note: This is slightly more complicated if neither parental strain is C57BL/6. One would have to find the SNPs that are homozygous only in one parent but not both.

2. Run pileup

For samples in this study, I downloaded raw FASTQs from the SRA and processed them by cellranger. Now we can generate single-cell allele counts for the SNP positions in the above VCF using cellsnp-lite.

cellsnp-lite \
    -s $cellrangerout/outs/possorted_genome_bam.bam \
    -b $cellrangerout/outs/filtered_feature_bc_matrix/barcodes.tsv.gz \
    -O ./pileup \
    -R ./129S1_SvImJ.sites.vcf.gz \
    -p 25 \
    --minMAF 0 \
    --minCOUNT 1

where $cellrangerout is the cellranger output folder for a specific sample.

3. Prepare allele dataframe

Let’s now read in the pileup output in R.


pu_dir = './pileup'

vcf_pu = fread(glue('{pu_dir}/cellSNP.base.vcf'), skip = '#CHROM') %>% 
    rename(CHROM = `#CHROM`) %>%
    mutate(snp_id = paste(CHROM, POS, REF, ALT, sep = '_')) %>%
    mutate(CHROM = str_remove(CHROM, 'chr')) %>%
    mutate(CHROM = factor(CHROM, unique(CHROM))) %>%
    filter(CHROM != 'X')

vcf_phased = vcf_pu %>% mutate(GT = '1|0', cM = 0)

where the last line is because one of the parental genotypes is the mm10 reference genome, all the alternative alleles in the VCF are already in phase, so all GT should be 1|0. In addition, since there is no recombination, we set the genetic distance cM to be a constant value for all sites.

Note: Again, if neither parental strain is C57BL/6, one has to assign GT to be 1|0 or 0|1 based on which parent the variant came from.

Next, we can read in the allele counts and convert it into a long dataframe.

# pileup count matrices
AD = readMM(glue('{pu_dir}/cellSNP.tag.AD.mtx'))
DP = readMM(glue('{pu_dir}/cellSNP.tag.DP.mtx'))
barcodes = fread(glue('{pu_dir}/cellSNP.samples.tsv'), header = F)$V1

# convert to dataframe
DP = %>%
        cell = barcodes[j],
        snp_id = vcf_pu$snp_id[i]
    ) %>%
    select(-i, -j) %>%
    rename(DP = x) %>%
    select(cell, snp_id, DP)

AD = %>%
        cell = barcodes[j],
        snp_id = vcf_pu$snp_id[i]
    ) %>%
    select(-i, -j) %>%
    rename(AD = x) %>%
    select(cell, snp_id, AD)

df_allele = DP %>% left_join(AD, by = c("cell", "snp_id")) %>%
    mutate(AD = ifelse(, 0, AD))

# attach genotype info
df_allele = df_allele %>% inner_join(
    vcf_phased %>% select(snp_id, CHROM, POS, REF, ALT, GT, cM),
    by = 'snp_id')

4. Prepare the expression reference

Because these are pancreatic tumors (PDAC), I downloaded the expression counts for a mouse normal pancreas scRNA-seq dataset (GSE159343), ran clustering using pagoda2, and used it to construct the reference expression profile (ref_pancreas).

count_mat = readMM('~/GSE159343_RAW/GSM4826923_C57BL6J_matrix.mtx.gz')
cells = fread('~/GSE159343_RAW/GSM4826923_C57BL6J_cells.tsv.gz', header = F)$V1
genes = fread('~/GSE159343_RAW/GSM4826923_C57BL6J_genes.tsv.gz', header = F)$V2
colnames(count_mat) = cells
rownames(count_mat) = genes
count_mat = as.matrix(count_mat)
count_mat = rowsum(count_mat, rownames(count_mat))
count_mat = as(count_mat, "dgCMatrix")
count_mat_ref = count_mat

p2 = pagoda2::basicP2proc(count_mat_ref, n.cores = 30)

clusters = p2$clusters$PCA$multilevel

ref_annot = data.frame(
    cell = names(clusters),
    group = unname(clusters)

ref_pancreas = numbat::aggregate_counts(
    ref_annot %>% group_by(group) %>% filter(n() > 100)

The expression count matrices for the tumor samples are prepared from the cellranger output as usual.

Run Numbat

Finally, let’s run CNV analysis using the prepared data. To let Numbat know this is mouse data, we set the genome build as mm10 and set phase switch rate nu = 0 to disable phase switch (because the phasing is perfect!).

    t = 1e-5,
    ncores = 20,
    skip_nj = TRUE,
    min_LLR = 30,
    out_dir = './results',
    # mouse specific settings
    genome = "mm10",
    nu = 0


Let’s look at the results for sample KPT_062521 (SRR20462475), where we see tumor subclones with distinct copy number profiles (the majority of the events are copy-neutral LOH).

nb = Numbat$new(glue('./results/{sample}'))
options(repr.plot.width = 8, repr.plot.height = 4, repr.plot.res = 200)

clone_pal = c(`1` = 'gray', `2` = "#E41A1C", `3` = "#377EB8",
    `4` = "#4DAF4A", `5` = "#984EA3", `6` = 'bisque3')

nb$plot_phylo_heatmap(pal_clone = clone_pal, clone_stack = TRUE, p_min = 0.9)

Let’s compare the copy number profiles of the two major subclones (clone 4 and 5) in a pseudobulk HMM view.

options(repr.plot.width = 10, repr.plot.height = 4.5, repr.plot.res = 200)

nb$bulk_clones %>% filter(sample %in% c(4,5)) %>% 
filter(CHROM %in% c(3, 4, 9)) %>%
plot_bulks(min_depth = 15, use_pos = F, exp_limit = 2.5, min_LLR = 20)

We see haplotype-specific differences with remarkable resolution. For example, the subclonal copy number profiles for chr3 largely agree, whereas chr4 and chr9 have distinct breakpoints and mirorred CNLOH (chr4, middle segment). All alleles collapse to one side in a CNV region, thanks to the perfect phasing.


Haplotype-aware CNV analysis is espcially powerful for model systems (the mouse in particular) where the haplotypes are fully known. Luckily, the logic in Numbat are written generically enough such that minimal tweaking to the algorithm is required (simply setting phase switch rate to be zero is sufficient, making it a special case). The main limitation is that Numbat is only applicable to F1 hybrid mice with mixed genetic backgrounds, whereas many mouse tumor models are conducted on a inbred (pure) genetic background, which lacks heterozygous SNPs. Nonetheless, this extension opens up many oppurtunities for integrative single-cell analysis in a genetically manipulatable mammalian system.


  1. Gao, T., Soldatov, R., Sarkar, H. et al. Haplotype-aware analysis of somatic copy number variations from single-cell transcriptomes. Nat Biotechnol (2022).

  2. Keane, T., Goodstadt, L., Danecek, P. et al. Mouse genomic variation and its effect on phenotypes and gene regulation. Nature 477, 289–294 (2011).

  3. Lilue, J., Doran, A.G., Fiddes, I.T. et al. Sixteen diverse laboratory mouse reference genomes define strain-specific haplotypes and novel functional loci. Nat Genet 50, 1574–1583 (2018).

  4. Kenneth L. Pitter, et al. Systematic Comparison of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Models Identifies a Conserved Highly Plastic Basal Cell State. Cancer Res 1 October 2022; 82 (19): 3549–3560.