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10x Genomics
Chromium Single Cell Gene Expression

What is Cell Ranger?

Cell Ranger is a set of analysis pipelines that process Chromium single-cell RNA-seq output to align reads, generate gene-cell matrices and perform clustering and gene expression analysis. Cell Ranger includes four pipelines relevant to single-cell gene expression experiments:

These pipelines combine Chromium-specific algorithms with the widely used RNA-seq aligner STAR. Output is delivered in standard BAM, MEX, CSV, HDF5 and HTML formats that are augmented with cellular information.


Throughout the documentation, you will see references to samples, libraries and sequencing runs. We define these as follows:

The relationship between these terms can be complex:


Cell Ranger 1.2 and later support libraries generated by the Chromium Single Cell 3′ v1 and v2 reagent kits, whereas Cell Ranger 1.1 and earlier do not support v2 libraries. Support for 5′ reagents is new in Cell Ranger 2.1.


The Cell Ranger workflow starts with demultiplexing the raw base call (BCL) files for each flowcell directory. 10x recommends using cellranger mkfastq as described in Generating FASTQs. However, it is possible to get compatible FASTQ files other ways, such as by starting with a public dataset which provides them, or using bcl2fastq directly. In that case, you would skip mkfastq and begin with cellranger count. Please see the Specifying Input FASTQs page for specific guidelines on which arguments to use for your scenario.

The subsequent steps vary depending on how many samples, libraries, and flowcells you have. We will describe them in order of increasing complexity:

Single Sample, Library, and Flowcell

cellranger basic

This is the most basic case. You have a single biological sample, which was prepared into a single library, and then sequenced on a single flowcell. Assuming the FASTQs have been generated with cellranger mkfastq, you just need to run cellranger count as described in Single-Library Analysis.

One Library, Multiple Flowcells

cellranger multiple sequencing runs

If you have a library which was sequenced across multiple flowcells (e.g. to increase sequencing saturation), you can pool the reads from both sequencing runs. Follow the steps in Specifying Input Fastqs to combine them in a single cellranger count run.

One Sample, Multiple Libraries

cellranger multiple libraries

This comprises two scenarios.

If you prepared multiple libraries from the same sample (technical replicates, for example), then each one should be run through a separate instance of cellranger count. Once those are completed, you can perform a combined analysis using cellranger aggr, as described in Multi-Library Aggregation. (This is illustrated in the figure).

If you prepared multiple libraries from the same sample and want to pool them and analyze the combined data as a single sample, then you will need to use the MRO syntax to treat the multiple libraries as coming from a single sample. (This is not illustrated in the figure).

Multiple Biological Samples

cellranger multiple samples

For a full experiment involving multiple biological samples, you must run cellranger count separately for each individual library deriving from each of those samples. For instance, if your experiment involves four samples, each having two libraries / replicates, then you will have to run cellranger count eight times. Then you can combine them all in a single call to cellranger aggr.

One or more 5′ Gene Expression and V(D)J Enriched Libraries from the Same Biological Sample

5′ gene expression libraries and V(D)J enriched libraries generated from the same cDNA product must be processed by cellranger count and cellranger vdj respectively. Refer to Single Cell V(D)J + 5′ Gene Expression for more information.