A Comprehensive Workflow for Applying Single-Cell Clustering and Pseudotime Analysis to Flow Cytometry Data

Janine E. Melsen, Monique M. van Ostaijen-Ten Dam, Arjan C. Lankester, Marco W. Schilham, Erik B. van den Akker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The introduction of single-cell platforms inspired the development of high-dimensional single-cell analysis tools to comprehensively characterize the underlying cellular heterogeneity. Flow cytometry data are traditionally analyzed by (subjective) gating of subpopulations on two-dimensional plots. However, the increasing number of parameters measured by conventional and spectral flow cytometry reinforces the need to apply many of the recently developed tools for single-cell analysis on flow cytometry data, as well. However, the myriads of analysis options offered by the continuously released novel packages can be overwhelming to the immunologist with limited computational background. In this article, we explain the main concepts of such analyses and provide a detailed workflow to illustrate their implications and additional prerequisites when applied on flow cytometry data. Moreover, we provide readily applicable R code covering transformation, normalization, dimensionality reduction, clustering, and pseudotime analysis that can serve as a template for future analyses. We demonstrate the merit of our workflow by reanalyzing a public human dataset. Compared with standard gating, the results of our workflow provide new insights in cellular subsets, alternative classifications, and hypothetical trajectories. Taken together, we present a well-documented workflow, which utilizes existing high-dimensional single-cell analysis tools to reveal cellular heterogeneity and intercellular relationships in flow cytometry data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-871
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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