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1 Janelia Publications

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    Menon Lab
    12/11/17 | Clustering single cells: a review of approaches on high-and low-depth single-cell RNA-seq data.
    Menon V
    Briefings in Functional Genomics. 2017 Dec 11;17(4):240-45. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elx044

    Advances in single-cell RNA-sequencing technology have resulted in a wealth of studies aiming to identify transcriptomic cell types in various biological systems. There are multiple experimental approaches to isolate and profile single cells, which provide different levels of cellular and tissue coverage. In addition, multiple computational strategies have been proposed to identify putative cell types from single-cell data. From a data generation perspective, recent single-cell studies can be classified into two groups: those that distribute reads shallowly over large numbers of cells and those that distribute reads more deeply over a smaller cell population. Although there are advantages to both approaches in terms of cellular and tissue coverage, it is unclear whether different computational cell type identification methods are better suited to one or the other experimental paradigm. This study reviews three cell type clustering algorithms, each representing one of three broad approaches, and finds that PCA-based algorithms appear most suited to low read depth data sets, whereas gene clustering-based and biclustering algorithms perform better on high read depth data sets. In addition, highly related cell classes are better distinguished by higher-depth data, given the same total number of reads; however, simultaneous discovery of distinct and similar types is better served by lower-depth, higher cell number data. Overall, this study suggests that the depth of profiling should be determined by initial assumptions about the diversity of cells in the population, and that the selection of clustering algorithm(s) is subsequently based on the depth of profiling will allow for better identification of putative transcriptomic cell types.

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