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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the Sixth Annual MCBIOS Conference. Transformational Bioinformatics: Delivering Value from Genomes

Open Access Proceedings

Graph ranking for exploratory gene data analysis

Cuilan Gao1, Xin Dang1*, Yixin Chen2 and Dawn Wilkins2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mathematics, The University of Mississippi, University, MS, 38677, USA

2 Computer & Information Science Department, The University of Mississippi, University, MS, 38677, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10(Suppl 11):S19  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S11-S19

Published: 8 October 2009



Microarray technology has made it possible to simultaneously monitor the expression levels of thousands of genes in a single experiment. However, the large number of genes greatly increases the challenges of analyzing, comprehending and interpreting the resulting mass of data. Selecting a subset of important genes is inevitable to address the challenge. Gene selection has been investigated extensively over the last decade. Most selection procedures, however, are not sufficient for accurate inference of underlying biology, because biological significance does not necessarily have to be statistically significant. Additional biological knowledge needs to be integrated into the gene selection procedure.


We propose a general framework for gene ranking. We construct a bipartite graph from the Gene Ontology (GO) and gene expression data. The graph describes the relationship between genes and their associated molecular functions. Under a species condition, edge weights of the graph are assigned to be gene expression level. Such a graph provides a mathematical means to represent both species-independent and species-dependent biological information. We also develop a new ranking algorithm to analyze the weighted graph via a kernelized spatial depth (KSD) approach. Consequently, the importance of gene and molecular function can be simultaneously ranked by a real-valued measure, KSD, which incorporates the global and local structure of the graph. Over-expressed and under-regulated genes also can be separately ranked.


The gene-function bigraph integrates molecular function annotations into gene expression data. The relevance of genes is described in the graph (through a common function). The proposed method provides an exploratory framework for gene data analysis.