Normalization Methods on Single-Cell RNA-seq Data: An Empirical Survey

Nicholas Lytal, Di Ran, Lingling An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Data normalization is vital to single-cell sequencing, addressing limitations presented by low input material and various forms of bias or noise present in the sequencing process. Several such normalization methods exist, some of which rely on spike-in genes, molecules added in known quantities to serve as a basis for a normalization model. Depending on available information and the type of data, some methods may express certain advantages over others. We compare the effectiveness of seven available normalization methods designed specifically for single-cell sequencing using two real data sets containing spike-in genes and one simulation study. Additionally, we test those methods not dependent on spike-in genes using a real data set with three distinct cell-cycle states and a real data set under the 10X Genomics GemCode platform with multiple cell types represented. We demonstrate the differences in effectiveness for the featured methods using visualization and classification assessment and conclude which methods are preferable for normalizing a certain type of data for further downstream analysis, such as classification or differential analysis. The comparison in computational time for all methods is addressed as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Feb 7 2020


  • RNA-seq
  • comparison
  • normalization
  • single-cell
  • spike-in RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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