Motivation: The recent advance of single-cell technologies has brought new insights into complex biological phenomena. In particular, genome-wide single-cell measurements such as transcriptome sequencing enable the characterization of cellular composition as well as functional variation in homogenic cell populations. An important step in the single-cell transcriptome analysis is to group cells that belong to the same cell types based on gene expression patterns. The corresponding computational problem is to cluster a noisy high dimensional dataset with substantially fewer objects (cells) than the number of variables (genes).
Results: In this article, we describe a novel algorithm named shared nearest neighbor (SNN)-Cliq that clusters single-cell transcriptomes. SNN-Cliq utilizes the concept of shared nearest neighbor that shows advantages in handling high-dimensional data. When evaluated on a variety of synthetic and real experimental datasets, SNN-Cliq outperformed the state-of-the-art methods tested. More importantly, the clustering results of SNN-Cliq reflect the cell types or origins with high accuracy.
Availability and implementation: The algorithm is implemented in MATLAB and Python. The source code can be downloaded at http://bioinfo.uncc.edu/SNNCliq.
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