Single cell RNA-seq data analysis using CellRanger and Seurat on Cluster

3 minute read


Running cellranger as cluster mode that uses Sun Grid Engine (SGE) as queuing system allows highly parallelizable jobs.

There are 4 steps to analyze Chromium Single Cell data1.

Step 1: cellranger mkfastq demultiplexes raw base call (BCL) files generated by Illumina sequencers into FASTQ files.
Step 2: cellranger count takes FASTQ files from cellranger mkfastq and performs alignment, filtering, barcode counting, and UMI counting. When doing large studies involving multiple GEM wells, run cellranger count on FASTQ data from each of the GEM wells individually, and then pool the results using cellranger aggr, as described here.
Step 3: cellranger aggr aggregates outputs from multiple runs of cellranger count.
Step 4: Downstream/Secondary analysis using R package Seurat v3.02.

Running pipelines on cluster requires the following:

1. Load Cell Ranger module (cellranger-3.1.0)1 or, download and uncompress cellranger at your $HOME directory and add PATH in ~/.bashrc.

2. Update job config file (cellranger-3.1.0/martian-cs/v3.2.3/jobmanagers/config.json) for threads and memory. For example

"threads_per_job": 20,
"memGB_per_job": 150,

3. Update template file (cellranger-3.1.0/martian-cs/v3.2.3/jobmanagers/sge.template).

#$ -pe smp __MRO_THREADS__
##$ -l mem_free=__MRO_MEM_GB__G (comment this line if your cluster do not support it!)
#$ -q b.q
#$ -S /bin/bash
#$ -m abe
#$ -M <e-mail>
source $HOME/cellranger-3.1.0/sourceme.bash

For clusters whose job managers do not support memory requests, it is possible to request memory in the form of cores via the --mempercore command-line option. This option scales up the number of threads requested via the __MRO_THREADS__ variable according to how much memory a stage requires. see more at Cluster Mode

4. Download single cell gene expression and reference genome datasets from 10XGenomics.

5. Create file


for Single Cell 3′ Gene expression

Output files will appear in the out/ subdirectory within this pipeline output directory.

cd $HOME/10xgenomics/out

For pipeline output directory, the --id argument is used i.e 10XGTX_v3.


cellranger count --disable-ui \
--id=10XGTX_v3 \
--transcriptome=${TR} \
--fastqs=${FASTQS} \
--sample=pbmc_10k_v3 \
--expect-cells=10000 \
--jobmode=sge \
--mempercore=8 \
--jobinterval=5000 \

for Single Cell 5′ gene expression


use either –force-cells or –expect-cells

cellranger count \
--id=10XGTX_v5 \
--fastqs=${FASTQS} \
--transcriptome=${TR} \
--sample=vdj_v1_hs_nsclc_5gex \
--force-cells=7802 \
--jobmode=sge \
--mempercore=8 \
--maxjobs=3 \

for Single Cell 5′ gene expression and cell surface protein (Feature Barcoding/Antibody Capture Assay)


cellranger count \
--libraries=${LIBRARY} \
--feature-ref=${FEATURE_REF} \
--id=PBMC_5GEX \
--transcriptome=${TR} \
--expect-cells=9000 \
--jobmode=sge \
--mempercore=8 \
--maxjobs=3 \

6. Execute a command in screen and, detach and reconnect

Use screen command to get in/out of the system while keeping the processes running.

screen -S screen_name


If you want to exit the terminal without killing the running process, simply press Ctrl+A+D.

To reconnect to the screen: screen -R screen_name

7. Monitor work progress through a web browser

Open _log file present in output folder PBMC_5GEX

If you see serving UI as, then type the following from your laptop

ssh -NT -L's password:

Then access the UI using the following URL in your web browser http://localhost:9000/

8. Single Cell Integration in Seurat v3.0

Seurat is an R package designed for QC, analysis, and exploration of single cell RNA-seq data. Seurat aims to enable users to identify and interpret sources of heterogeneity from single cell transcriptomic measurements, and to integrate diverse types of single cell data. Seurat starts by reading cellranger data (barcodes.tsv.gz, features.tsv.gz and matrix.mtx.gz) <- Read10X(data.dir = "~/PBMC_5GEX/outs/filtered_feature_bc_matrix/")