A lineage tree-based hidden Markov model quantifies cellular heterogeneity and plasticity

Farnaz Mohammadi, Shakthi Visagan, Sean M. Gross, Luka Karginov, J. C. Lagarde, Laura M. Heiser, Aaron S. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Individual cells can assume a variety of molecular and phenotypic states and recent studies indicate that cells can rapidly adapt in response to therapeutic stress. Such phenotypic plasticity may confer resistance, but also presents opportunities to identify molecular programs that could be targeted for therapeutic benefit. Approaches to quantify tumor-drug responses typically focus on snapshot, population-level measurements. While informative, these methods lack lineage and temporal information, which are particularly critical for understanding dynamic processes such as cell state switching. As new technologies have become available to measure lineage relationships, modeling approaches will be needed to identify the forms of cell-to-cell heterogeneity present in these data. Here we apply a lineage tree-based adaptation of a hidden Markov model that employs single cell lineages as input to learn the characteristic patterns of phenotypic heterogeneity and state transitions. In benchmarking studies, we demonstrated that the model successfully classifies cells within experimentally-tractable dataset sizes. As an application, we analyzed experimental measurements in cancer and non-cancer cell populations under various treatments. We find evidence of multiple phenotypically distinct states, with considerable heterogeneity and unique drug responses. In total, this framework allows for the flexible modeling of single cell heterogeneity across lineages to quantify, understand, and control cell state switching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1258
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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