Motivation

Single-cell sequencing technology has become a routine in studying many biological problems. A core step of analyzing single-cell data is the assignment of cell clusters to specific cell types. Reference-based methods are proposed for predicting cell types for single-cell clusters. However, the scalability and lack of preprocessed reference datasets prevent them from being practical and easy to use.

Results

Here, we introduce a reference-based cell annotation web server, CellAnn, which is super-fast and easy to use. CellAnn contains a comprehensive reference database with 204 human and 191 mouse single-cell datasets. These reference datasets cover 32 organs. Furthermore, we developed a cluster-to-cluster alignment method to transfer cell labels from the reference to the query datasets, which is superior to the existing methods with higher accuracy and higher scalability. Finally, CellAnn is an online tool that integrates all the procedures in cell annotation, including reference searching, transferring cell labels, visualizing results, and harmonizing cell annotation labels. Through the user-friendly interface, users can identify the best annotation by cross-validating with multiple reference datasets. We believe that CellAnn can greatly facilitate single-cell sequencing data analysis.

Availability and implementation

The web server is available at www.cellann.io, and the source code is available at https://github.com/Pinlyu3/CellAnn_shinyapp.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.