Single-cell RNA sequencing technology provides a novel means to analyze the transcriptomic profiles of individual cells. The technique is vulnerable, however, to a type of noise called dropout effects, which lead to zero-inflated distributions in the transcriptome profile and reduce the reliability of the results. Single-cell RNA sequencing data therefore need to be carefully processed before in-depth analysis. Here we describe a novel imputation method that reduces dropout effects in single-cell sequencing. We construct a cell correspondence network and adjust gene expression estimates based on transcriptome profiles for the local community of cells of the same type. We comprehensively evaluated this method, called PRIME (PRobabilistic IMputation to reduce dropout effects in Expression profiles of single cell sequencing), on six datasets and verified that it improves the quality of visualization and accuracy of clustering analysis and can discover gene expression patterns hidden by noise.
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