ScLRTC: imputation for single-cell RNA-seq data via low-rank tensor completion

BMC Genomics. 2021 Nov 29;22(1):860. doi: 10.1186/s12864-021-08101-3.


Background: With single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) methods, gene expression patterns at the single-cell resolution can be revealed. But as impacted by current technical defects, dropout events in scRNA-seq lead to missing data and noise in the gene-cell expression matrix and adversely affect downstream analyses. Accordingly, the true gene expression level should be recovered before the downstream analysis is carried out.

Results: In this paper, a novel low-rank tensor completion-based method, termed as scLRTC, is proposed to impute the dropout entries of a given scRNA-seq expression. It initially exploits the similarity of single cells to build a third-order low-rank tensor and employs the tensor decomposition to denoise the data. Subsequently, it reconstructs the cell expression by adopting the low-rank tensor completion algorithm, which can restore the gene-to-gene and cell-to-cell correlations. ScLRTC is compared with other state-of-the-art methods on simulated datasets and real scRNA-seq datasets with different data sizes. Specific to simulated datasets, scLRTC outperforms other methods in imputing the dropouts closest to the original expression values, which is assessed by both the sum of squared error (SSE) and Pearson correlation coefficient (PCC). In terms of real datasets, scLRTC achieves the most accurate cell classification results in spite of the choice of different clustering methods (e.g., SC3 or t-SNE followed by K-means), which is evaluated by using adjusted rand index (ARI) and normalized mutual information (NMI). Lastly, scLRTC is demonstrated to be also effective in cell visualization and in inferring cell lineage trajectories.

Conclusions: a novel low-rank tensor completion-based method scLRTC gave imputation results better than the state-of-the-art tools. Source code of scLRTC can be accessed at .

Keywords: Data imputation; Low-rank tensor; Single-cell RNA-seq.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Software