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PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Aug 24;17(8):e1009290. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009290. Online ahead of print.
Single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) has made it possible to profile gene expression in tissues at high resolution. An important preprocessing step prior to performing downstream analyses is to identify and remove cells with poor or degraded sample quality using quality control (QC) metrics. Two widely used QC metrics to identify a ‘low-quality’ cell are (i) if the cell includes a high proportion of reads that map to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) encoded genes and (ii) if a small number of genes are detected. Current best practices use these QC metrics independently with either arbitrary, uniform thresholds (e.g. 5%) or biological context-dependent (e.g. species) thresholds, and fail to jointly model these metrics in a data-driven manner. Current practices are often overly stringent and especially untenable on certain types of tissues, such as archived tumor tissues, or tissues associated with mitochondrial function, such as kidney tissue . We propose a data-driven QC metric (miQC) that jointly models both the proportion of reads mapping to mtDNA genes and the number of detected genes with mixture models in a probabilistic framework to predict the low-quality cells in a given dataset. We demonstrate how our QC metric easily adapts to different types of single-cell datasets to remove low-quality cells while preserving high-quality cells that can be used for downstream analyses. Our software package is available at bioconductor.org/packages/miQC.
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