Normalization of single-cell RNA sequencing data is necessary to eliminate cell-specific biases prior to downstream analyses. However, this is not straightforward for noisy single-cell data where many counts are zero. We present a novel approach where expression values are summed across pools of cells, and the summed values are used for normalization. Pool-based size factors are then deconvolved to yield cell-based factors. Our deconvolution approach outperforms existing methods for accurate normalization of cell-specific biases in simulated data. Similar behavior is observed in real data, where deconvolution improves the relevance of results of downstream analyses.
Keywords: Differential expression; Normalization; Single-cell RNA-seq.