Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Bioinformatics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The identification of informative genes from multiple datasets with increasing complexity

S Yahya Anvar12*, Peter AC 't Hoen2 and Allan Tucker1

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Intelligent Data Analysis, School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, UK

2 Center for Human and Clinical Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-32

Published: 15 January 2010



In microarray data analysis, factors such as data quality, biological variation, and the increasingly multi-layered nature of more complex biological systems complicates the modelling of regulatory networks that can represent and capture the interactions among genes. We believe that the use of multiple datasets derived from related biological systems leads to more robust models. Therefore, we developed a novel framework for modelling regulatory networks that involves training and evaluation on independent datasets. Our approach includes the following steps: (1) ordering the datasets based on their level of noise and informativeness; (2) selection of a Bayesian classifier with an appropriate level of complexity by evaluation of predictive performance on independent data sets; (3) comparing the different gene selections and the influence of increasing the model complexity; (4) functional analysis of the informative genes.


In this paper, we identify the most appropriate model complexity using cross-validation and independent test set validation for predicting gene expression in three published datasets related to myogenesis and muscle differentiation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that models trained on simpler datasets can be used to identify interactions among genes and select the most informative. We also show that these models can explain the myogenesis-related genes (genes of interest) significantly better than others (P < 0.004) since the improvement in their rankings is much more pronounced. Finally, after further evaluating our results on synthetic datasets, we show that our approach outperforms a concordance method by Lai et al. in identifying informative genes from multiple datasets with increasing complexity whilst additionally modelling the interaction between genes.


We show that Bayesian networks derived from simpler controlled systems have better performance than those trained on datasets from more complex biological systems. Further, we present that highly predictive and consistent genes, from the pool of differentially expressed genes, across independent datasets are more likely to be fundamentally involved in the biological process under study. We conclude that networks trained on simpler controlled systems, such as in vitro experiments, can be used to model and capture interactions among genes in more complex datasets, such as in vivo experiments, where these interactions would otherwise be concealed by a multitude of other ongoing events.