• Nuha Bin Tayyash

Student thesis: Phd


The negative binomial distribution has been shown a good model for counts data from both bulk and single-cell RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq). Gaussian process (GP) regression provides a useful non-parametric approach for modeling temporal or spatial changes in gene expression. However, currently available GP regression methods that implement negative binomial likelihood models do not scale to the increasingly large datasets being produced by single-cell technologies. The GPcounts package implements GP regression methods for modelling counts data using negative binomial and zero-inflated negative binomial likelihood functions. Computational efficiency is achieved through the use of variational Bayesian inference. The GP function is used to model changes in the mean of the negative binomial likelihood through a logarithmic link function and the dispersion parameter is fitted by maximum likelihood. We also provide the option of modelling additional dropout using a zero-inflated negative binomial likelihood where the gene-specific drop-out rate is linked to the inferred GP function through a Michaelis-Menten function. We validate the method on simulated time course data, showing that it is better able to identify changes in over-dispersed counts data over time than methods based on Gaussian or Poisson likelihoods. To demonstrate temporal inference, we apply GPcounts to single-cell RNA-seq datasets after pseudotime and branching inference. To demonstrate spatial inference, we apply GPcounts to data from the mouse olfactory bulb to identify spatially variable genes and we compare our results to those from a published GP method with a Gaussian likelihood function. Our results show that the GPcounts package can be used to model temporal, spatial, branching and transition in counts data in cases where simpler Gaussian and Poisson likelihoods are unrealistic.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Brass (Supervisor) & Magnus Rattray (Supervisor)


  • temporal
  • spatial
  • single cell RNA-seq
  • RNA-seq
  • Negative binomial
  • Gaussian Process
  • Zero-inflated

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