Update: Toward a data infrastructure for the Plant Cell Atlas (Plant Physiol)

The ability to analyze the information contained within a single cell, for example through single-cell RNA sequening (scRNA-seq) presents exciting possibilities to biologists. Building on this and similar technologies, the Plant Cell Atlas (PCA) (www.plantcellatlas.org/) has the goal of creating an information resource about the state (DNA, RNA, proteins, molecules) of various plant cells in various conditions. Obviously, this project requires a lot of data, but if the data isn’t collected and curated appropriately, the information gleaned will be limited. Here, Fahlgren et al. describe their vision for the data infrastructure that will support this ambitious project. The authors describe the project as requiring tiered sets of databases: infrastructure, consolidation, and investigator. The PCA infrastructure design can be adapted from the Human Cell Atlas Data Coordination Platform or the EBI’s Single Cell Expression Atlas systems, and several consolidation-based tiers such as The Arabidopsis Information Portal (TAIR) and the Bio-Analytic Resource for Plant Biology (BAR) provide starting points for the development of the PCA project. Data sharing, annotation, curation, and integration require data and metadata standards and vocabularies and consistent analysis pipelines that will need to be adhered to by investigators. Finally, the authors discuss options to address the interlocking needs for ongoing curation and funding. The result of these efforts should enable researchers to pose questions such as how equivalent cells in different species respond to the same environmental stimulus.  (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) Plant Physiol. 10.1093/plphys/kiac468