Getting started

The r Rpackage("SEtools") package is a set of convenience functions for the Bioconductor class r Biocpkg("SummarizedExperiment"). It facilitates merging, melting, and plotting SummarizedExperiment objects.

Package installation

if (!requireNamespace("BiocManager", quietly = TRUE))

Or, to install the latest development version:


Example data

To showcase the main functions, we will use an example object which contains (a subset of) whole-hippocampus RNAseq of mice after different stressors:

data("SE", package="SEtools")

This is taken from Floriou-Servou et al., Biol Psychiatry 2018.


There are two main wrappers for plotting heatmaps from SummarizedExperiment objects:

Both functions were made to function very similarly, but the sechm function is especially useful to combine heatmaps (for instance, from different SummarizedExperiment objects). We'll showcase sehm (the main functionalities being replicable with sechm), and will then provide examples of multiple heatmaps.


The sehm function simplifies the generation of heatmaps from SummarizedExperiment. It uses r CRANpkg("pheatmap"), so any argument supported by it can in principle be passed:

g <- c("Egr1", "Nr4a1", "Fos", "Egr2", "Sgk1", "Arc", "Dusp1", "Fosb", "Sik1")
sehm(SE, genes=g)
sehm(SE, assayName="logcpm", genes=g, do.scale=TRUE)

When scaling data, the function will automatically center the colour scale around zero, and handle the extreme values (0.5\% percentile on each side) in a non-linear fashion to retain a useful visualization. This behavior can be manually controlled via the breaks parameter (either setting it to FALSE, to a percentile until which the scale should be linear, of manually inputting breaks).

Annotation from the object's rowData and colData can be plotted simply by specifying the column name (some will be shown by default if found):

sehm(SE, assayName="logcpm", genes=g, do.scale=TRUE, anno_rows="meanTPM")

These can also be used to create gaps:

sehm(SE, genes=g, do.scale=TRUE, anno_rows="meanTPM", gaps_at="Condition")

The specific assay to use for plotting can be specified with the assayName argument.

Row/column ordering

By default, rows are sorted not with hierarchical clustering, but from the angle on a MDS plot, which tends to give nicer results than bottom-up hierarchical clustering. This can be disabled using sortRowsOn=NULL or cluster_rows=TRUE (to avoid any row reordering and use the order given, use sortRowsOn=NULL, cluster_rows=FALSE). Column clustering is disabled by default, but this can be changed with cluster_cols=TRUE.

It is common to cluster features into groups, and such a clustering can be used simultaneously with row sorting using the toporder argument. For instance:

lfcs <- assays(SE)$logcpm-rowMeans(assays(SE)$logcpm[,which(SE$Condition=="Homecage")])
rowData(SE)$cluster <- as.character(kmeans(lfcs,4)$cluster)
sehm(SE, genes=g, do.scale=TRUE, anno_rows="cluster", toporder="cluster", gaps_at="Condition")

Default arguments

For some arguments (for instance colors), if they are not specified in the function call, SEtools will try to see whether the object itself contains it, or whether the corresponding global options have been set, before using default colors. This means that if, in the context of a given project, the same colors are repeatedly being used, they can be specified a single time, and all subsequent plots will be affected.

Storing colors in the object:

metadata(SE)$hmcols <- c("purple","white","gold")
ancols <- list( Condition=c( Homecage="#DB918B",
                             Swim="#B5DF7C" ) )
metadata(SE)$anno_colors <- ancols
sehm(SE, g, do.scale = TRUE)

Using the global options:

sehm(SE, g, do.scale = TRUE)

At the moment, the following arguments can be set as global options: assayName, hmcols, anno_columns, anno_rows, anno_colors, gaps_at, breaks. Options must be set with the prefix SEtools_def_, followed by the name of the argument.

To remove the predefined colors:

metadata(SE)$hmcols <- NULL
metadata(SE)$anno_colors <- NULL

In order of priority, the arguments in the function call trump the object's metadata, which trumps the global options.

sechm and crossHm

The sechm function works like the sehm function, but the fact that it outputs a Heatmap object from ComplexHeatmap means that these can be easily combined:

sechm(SE, g, do.scale = TRUE) + sechm(SE, g, do.scale = FALSE)

However, doing so involves manual work to ensure that the labels and colors are nice and coherent, and that the rows names match. As a convenience, we provide the crossHm function to handle these issues. crossHm works with a list of SummarizedExperiment objects:

# we build another SE object:
SE2 <- SE
assays(SE2)$logcpm <- jitter(assays(SE2)$logcpm, factor=1000)
crossHm(list(SE1=SE, SE2=SE2), g, do.scale = TRUE)

A unique color scale can be enforced:

crossHm(list(SE1=SE, SE2=SE2), g, do.scale = TRUE, uniqueScale = TRUE)

Merging and aggregating SEs

se1 <- SE[,1:10]
se2 <- SE[,11:20]
se3 <- mergeSEs( list(se1=se1, se2=se2) )

All assays were merged, along with rowData and colData slots.

By default, row z-scores are calculated for each object when merging. This can be prevented with:

se3 <- mergeSEs( list(se1=se1, se2=se2), do.scale=FALSE)

If more than one assay is present, one can specify a different scaling behavior for each assay:

se3 <- mergeSEs( list(se1=se1, se2=se2), use.assays=c("counts", "logcpm"), do.scale=c(FALSE, TRUE))

Merging by rowData columns

It is also possible to merge by rowData columns, which are specified through the mergeBy argument. In this case, one can have one-to-many and many-to-many mappings, in which case two behaviors are possible:

rowData(se1)$metafeature <- sample(LETTERS,nrow(se1),replace = TRUE)
rowData(se2)$metafeature <- sample(LETTERS,nrow(se2),replace = TRUE)
se3 <- mergeSEs( list(se1=se1, se2=se2), do.scale=FALSE, mergeBy="metafeature", aggFun=median)
sehm(se3, genes=row.names(se3))

Aggregating a SE

A single SE can also be aggregated by using the aggSE function:

se1b <- aggSE(se1, by = "metafeature")

If the aggregation function(s) are not specified, aggSE will try to guess decent aggregation functions from the assay names.

Melting SE

To facilitate plotting features with r CRANpkg("ggplot2"), the meltSE function combines assay values along with row/column data:

d <- meltSE(SE, genes=g[1:4])
ggplot(d, aes(Condition, counts, fill=Condition)) + geom_violin() + 
    facet_wrap(~feature, scale="free")

Other convenience functions

Calculate an assay of log-foldchanges to the controls:

SE <- log2FC(SE, fromAssay="logcpm", controls=SE$Condition=="Homecage")

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SEtools documentation built on Nov. 8, 2020, 8:21 p.m.