Compositional Data Analysis of Microbiome and Any-Omics Datasets: A Validation of the Additive Logratio Transformation

Michael Greenacre*, Marina Martínez-Álvaro, Agustín Blasco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Microbiome and omics datasets are, by their intrinsic biological nature, of high dimensionality, characterized by counts of large numbers of components (microbial genes, operational taxonomic units, RNA transcripts, etc.). These data are generally regarded as compositional since the total number of counts identified within a sample is irrelevant. The central concept in compositional data analysis is the logratio transformation, the simplest being the additive logratios with respect to a fixed reference component. A full set of additive logratios is not isometric, that is they do not reproduce the geometry of all pairwise logratios exactly, but their lack of isometry can be measured by the Procrustes correlation. The reference component can be chosen to maximize the Procrustes correlation between the additive logratio geometry and the exact logratio geometry, and for high-dimensional data there are many potential references. As a secondary criterion, minimizing the variance of the reference component's log-transformed relative abundance values makes the subsequent interpretation of the logratios even easier. On each of three high-dimensional omics datasets the additive logratio transformation was performed, using references that were identified according to the abovementioned criteria. For each dataset the compositional data structure was successfully reproduced, that is the additive logratios were very close to being isometric. The Procrustes correlations achieved for these datasets were 0.9991, 0.9974, and 0.9902, respectively. We thus demonstrate, for high-dimensional compositional data, that additive logratios can provide a valid choice as transformed variables, which (a) are subcompositionally coherent, (b) explain 100% of the total logratio variance and (c) come measurably very close to being isometric. The interpretation of additive logratios is much simpler than the complex isometric alternatives and, when the variance of the log-transformed reference is very low, it is even simpler since each additive logratio can be identified with a corresponding compositional component.
Original languageEnglish
Article number727398
Pages (from-to)727398
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Early online date11 Oct 2021
Publication statusFirst published - 11 Oct 2021


  • Procrustes correlation
  • compositional data
  • dimension reduction
  • logratio geometry
  • logratio transformation
  • logratio variance
  • variable selection


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