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Single cell RNA-Seq (scRNA-Seq) profiles gene expression of individual cells. Recent scRNA-Seq datasets have incorporated unique molecular identifiers (UMIs). Using negative controls, we show UMI counts follow multinomial sampling with no zero-inflation. Current normalization procedures such as log of counts per million and feature selection by highly variable genes produce false variability in dimension reduction. We propose simple multinomial methods, including generalized principal component analysis (GLM-PCA) for non-normal distributions, and feature selection using deviance. These methods outperform current practice in a downstream clustering assessment using ground-truth datasets.
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