Nonlinear data-visualization methods, such as t-SNE and UMAP, have become staple tools for summarizing the complex transcriptomic landscape of single cells in 2D or 3D. However, existing approaches neglect the local density of data points in the original space, often resulting in misleading visualizations where densely populated subpopulations of cells are given more visual space even if they account for only a small fraction of transcriptional diversity within the dataset. We present den-SNE and densMAP, our density-preserving visualization tools based on t-SNE and UMAP, respectively, and demonstrate their ability to facilitate more accurate visual interpretation of single-cell RNA-seq data. On recently published datasets, our methods newly reveal significant changes in transcriptomic variability within a range of biological processes, including cancer, immune cell specialization in human, and the developmental trajectory of C. elegans. Our methods are readily applicable to visualizing high-dimensional data in other scientific domains. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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