K-nearest neighbor smoothing for high-throughput single-cell RNA-Seq data
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README.md

kNN-smoothing for high-throughput single-cell RNA-Seq data

This repository contains reference Python, R, and Matlab implementations of the kNN-smoothing and kNN-smoothing 2 algorithms (Wagner et al., 2017) for smoothing UMI-filtered single-cell RNA-Seq data.

Changelog

4/26/2018 - Version 2.1 released (at this point only for the Python/command-line implementation)

Version 2.1 improves upon the kNN-smoothing 2 algorithm, and has three changes compared to version 2:

  1. The definition of k (the number of neighbors used for smoothing) was changed to also include the cell to be smoothed itself. Previously, setting k=1 resulted in each cell being smoothed with its nearest neighbor (other than itself). Now, setting k=2 has this effect. This change in notation was made so that the values of k associated with each smoothing step are more intuitive (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, ...). Performing kNN-smoothing with k=1 will now simply return a copy of the original matrix (i.e., no smoothing is performed).

  2. A new feature, dither, has been introduced to the algorithm. This is designed to avoid or reduce the artificial "clumping" of cells in the smoothed data (many cells having the exact same smoothed expression profile). These clumps form quite easily, because cells that share the same set of neighbors in any smoothing step become completely indistinguishable from one another. This is often undesirable, particularly when the underlying data comes from a continuous process (e.g., cell differentiation). Dither is artificial noise that we apply to each cell in principal component space, before determining the new sets of nearest neighbors. It introduces small, random differences between identifical or extremely similar cells, with the aim of making them choose slightly different sets of neighbors in the next smoothing step. The noise is sampled from a uniform distribution, and the amount of noise is controlled by the dither parameter, or the --dither command-line argument (default: 0.03). It corresponds to the fraction of the range (maximum - minimum) of cell scores for each PC. Too much dither can negatively impact smoothing accuracy, but too little dither can result in artificial clumping of cells after smoothing. Setting dither to 0 will disable this feature.

  3. The new version no longer supports running the original kNN-smoothing (version 1) algorithm.

4/9/2018 - Version 2 of the algorithm released

Version 2 is a major improvement over our original algorithm, and performs much better whenever the data contains cell populations with very similar expression profiles. Version 2 completely replaces the original version. It takes two parameters (k and d). k is the number of neighbors to use for smoothing (same as in the original version), and d is the number of principal components used for determining the nearest neighbors in each smoothing step. For most applications, the default value of d=10 works well. Please see our preprint for a discussion of how to choose k and d.

Overview of the different implementations (Python/R/Matlab)

Of the three implementations provided here, the Python implementation is the most thoroughly tested and the fastest. However, all implementations run reasonably fast - typically on the order of seconds or minutes for datasets containing < 5,000 cells. For larger datasets, we recommend using the Python implementation. The Python implementation also provides a command-line interface (see below), which makes it easy to use for non-Python users.

We strive to ensure the correctness of all implementations and to make them all as consistent as possible. However, due to differences in terms of how the randomized PCA is implemented in each language, there are currently small differences in the exact results produced by each implementation. We appreciate any reports of inconsistencies or suggestions for improvements.

Running kNN-smoothing from the command-line

Follow these instructions to run the Python implementation of kNN-smoothing from the command-line. This is the recommend method to run kNN-smoothing if you don't usually do your data analysis in Python, or if you prefer to work on the command-line.

  1. Install dependencies

    Make sure you have Python 3 and the Python packages scikit-learn, pandas, and click installed. The easiest way to install Python 3 as well as these packages is to download and install Anaconda (select the "Python 3.6 version").

  2. Download the GitHub repository

    Download this GitHub repository, and extract the contents into a folder.

  3. Test running the script

    To run the script, change into the folder where you extracted the files, and run (on Linux/Mac):

    python3 knn_smooth.py --help

    You should see the following output:

    Usage: knn_smooth.py [OPTIONS]
    
    Options:
      -k INTEGER          The number of neighbors to use for smoothing.
      -d INTEGER          The number of principal components used to identify
    	              neighbors. Set to 0 in order to invoke old version of
    	              kNN-smoothing (not recommended).  [default: 10]
      -f, --fpath TEXT    The input UMI-count matrix.
      -o, --saveto TEXT   The output matrix.
      -s, --seed INTEGER  Seed for pseudo-random number generator.  [default: 0]
      --sep TEXT          Separator used in input file. The output file will use
    	              this separator as well.  [default: \t]
      --help              Show this message and exit.
    
  4. Make sure your expression matrix file is formatted correctly

    By default, the script expects your expression matrix to be stored as a tab-separated plain-text file, with gene labels contained in the first column, and cell labels contained in the first row (the top-left "cell" in the matrix can either be empty or contain the first cell label). A properly formatted example dataset (test_expression.tsv) is included in this repository.

    If your file uses a separator other than the tab character, you must specify it by passing the --sep argument to the script. For example, if you're using comma-separated values (csv), pass --sep ,. This will also affect the separator used in the output file.

  5. Run smoothing!

    Let's say your (tab-separated) expression matrix file is called expression.tsv, and you saved it in the same directory as the "knn_smooth.py" script. Then, to run smoothing with k=15 (and d=10), you would use:

    python3 knn_smooth.py -k 15 -f expression.tsv -o expression_smoothed.tsv

    This will produce a smoothed matrix called expression_smoothed.tsv.

Example

Running kNN-smoothing 2 from the command-line, on the test dataset included in this repository (test_expression.tsv):

$ python3 knn_smooth.py -k 32 -d 2 -f test_expression.tsv -o test_expression_smoothed.tsv

Output:

  Loading the data... done. (Took 0.1 s.)
  The expression matrix contains 7145 genes and 100 cells.

  Performing kNN-smoothing with k=32, d=2, and dither=0.030...
  Step 1/5: Smooth using k=2
  	PCA took 0.1 s.
  	The fraction of variance explained by the top 2 PCs is 4.6 %.
  	Calculating pair-wise distance matrix took 0.0 s.
  	Calculating the smoothed expression matrix took 0.0 s.
  Step 2/5: Smooth using k=4
  	PCA took 0.0 s.
  	The fraction of variance explained by the top 2 PCs is 8.0 %.
  	Calculating pair-wise distance matrix took 0.0 s.
  	Calculating the smoothed expression matrix took 0.0 s.
  Step 3/5: Smooth using k=8
  	PCA took 0.0 s.
  	The fraction of variance explained by the top 2 PCs is 14.3 %.
  	Calculating pair-wise distance matrix took 0.0 s.
  	Calculating the smoothed expression matrix took 0.0 s.
  Step 4/5: Smooth using k=16
  	PCA took 0.0 s.
  	The fraction of variance explained by the top 2 PCs is 25.4 %.
  	Calculating pair-wise distance matrix took 0.0 s.
  	Calculating the smoothed expression matrix took 0.0 s.
  Step 5/5: Smooth using k=32
  	PCA took 0.0 s.
  	The fraction of variance explained by the top 2 PCs is 52.4 %.
  	Calculating pair-wise distance matrix took 0.0 s.
  	Calculating the smoothed expression matrix took 0.1 s.
  kNN-smoothing finished in 0.3 s.

  Writing results to "test_smoothing_smoothed.tsv"... done. (Took 0.5 s.)