Predicting cell-to-cell communication networks using NATMI

Rui Hou, Elena Denisenko, Huan Ting Ong, Jordan A. Ramilowski, Alistair R.R. Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Development of high throughput single-cell sequencing technologies has made it cost-effective to profile thousands of cells from diverse samples containing multiple cell types. To study how these different cell types work together, here we develop NATMI (Network Analysis Toolkit for Multicellular Interactions). NATMI uses connectomeDB2020 (a database of 2293 manually curated ligand-receptor pairs with literature support) to predict and visualise cell-to-cell communication networks from single-cell (or bulk) expression data. Using multiple published single-cell datasets we demonstrate how NATMI can be used to identify (i) the cell-type pairs that are communicating the most (or most specifically) within a network, (ii) the most active (or specific) ligand-receptor pairs active within a network, (iii) putative highly-communicating cellular communities and (iv) differences in intercellular communication when profiling given cell types under different conditions. Furthermore, analysis of the Tabula Muris (organism-wide) atlas confirms our previous prediction that autocrine signalling is a major feature of cell-to-cell communication networks, while also revealing that hundreds of ligands and their cognate receptors are co-expressed in individual cells suggesting a substantial potential for self-signalling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5011
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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