Clustering is an essential step in the analysis of single cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) data to shed light on tissue complexity including the number of cell types and transcriptomic signatures of each cell type. Due to its importance, novel methods have been developed recently for this purpose. However, different approaches generate varying estimates regarding the number of clusters and the single-cell level cluster assignments. This type of unsupervised clustering is challenging and it is often times hard to gauge which method to use because none of the existing methods outperform others across all scenarios. We present SAME-clustering, a mixture model-based approach that takes clustering solutions from multiple methods and selects a maximally diverse subset to produce an improved ensemble solution. We tested SAME-clustering across 15 scRNA-seq datasets generated by different platforms, with number of clusters varying from 3 to 15, and number of single cells from 49 to 32,695. Results show that our SAME-clustering ensemble method yields enhanced clustering, in terms of both cluster assignments and number of clusters. The mixture model ensemble clustering is not limited to clustering scRNA-seq data and may be useful to a wide range of clustering applications.
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