mbkmeans: Fast clustering for single cell data using mini-batch k-means

Stephanie C. Hicks, Ruoxi Liu, Yuwei Ni, Elizabeth Purdom, Davide Risso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single-cell RNA-Sequencing (scRNA-seq) is the most widely used high-throughput technology to measure genome-wide gene expression at the single-cell level. One of the most common analyses of scRNA-seq data detects distinct subpopulations of cells through the use of unsupervised clustering algorithms. However, recent advances in scRNA-seq technologies result in current datasets ranging from thousands to millions of cells. Popular clustering algorithms, such as k-means, typically require the data to be loaded entirely into memory and therefore can be slow or impossible to run with large datasets. To address this problem, we developed the mbkmeans R/Bioconductor package, an open-source implementation of the mini-batch k-means algorithm. Our package allows for on-disk data representations, such as the common HDF5 file format widely used for single-cell data, that do not require all the data to be loaded into memory at one time. We demonstrate the performance of the mbkmeans package using large datasets, including one with 1.3 million cells. We also highlight and compare the computing performance of mbkmeans against the standard implementation of kmeans. Our software package is available in Bioconductor at https://bioconductor.org/packages/mbkmeans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - May 27 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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