RSim: A reference-based normalization method via rank similarity

Bo Yuan, Shulei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbiome sequencing data normalization is crucial for eliminating technical bias and ensuring accurate downstream analysis. However, this process can be challenging due to the high frequency of zero counts in microbiome data. We propose a novel reference-based normalization method called normalization via rank similarity (RSim) that corrects sample-specific biases, even in the presence of many zero counts. Unlike other normalization methods, RSim does not require additional assumptions or treatments for the high prevalence of zero counts. This makes it robust and minimizes potential bias resulting from procedures that address zero counts, such as pseudo-counts. Our numerical experiments demonstrate that RSim reduces false discoveries, improves detection power, and reveals true biological signals in downstream tasks such as PCoA plotting, association analysis, and differential abundance analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011447
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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