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Open Access Research article

Parallel multiplicity and error discovery rate (EDR) in microarray experiments

Wayne Wenzhong Xu1* and Clay J Carter2

Author Affiliations

1 Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for Advanced Computational Research, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

2 Department of Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN 55812, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:465  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-465

Published: 16 September 2010

Abstract

Background

In microarray gene expression profiling experiments, differentially expressed genes (DEGs) are detected from among tens of thousands of genes on an array using statistical tests. It is important to control the number of false positives or errors that are present in the resultant DEG list. To date, more than 20 different multiple test methods have been reported that compute overall Type I error rates in microarray experiments. However, these methods share the following dilemma: they have low power in cases where only a small number of DEGs exist among a large number of total genes on the array.

Results

This study contrasts parallel multiplicity of objectively related tests against the traditional simultaneousness of subjectively related tests and proposes a new assessment called the Error Discovery Rate (EDR) for evaluating multiple test comparisons in microarray experiments. Parallel multiple tests use only the negative genes that parallel the positive genes to control the error rate; while simultaneous multiple tests use the total unchanged gene number for error estimates. Here, we demonstrate that the EDR method exhibits improved performance over other methods in specificity and sensitivity in testing expression data sets with sequence digital expression confirmation, in examining simulation data, as well as for three experimental data sets that vary in the proportion of DEGs. The EDR method overcomes a common problem of previous multiple test procedures, namely that the Type I error rate detection power is low when the total gene number used is large but the DEG number is small.

Conclusions

Microarrays are extensively used to address many research questions. However, there is potential to improve the sensitivity and specificity of microarray data analysis by developing improved multiple test comparisons. This study proposes a new view of multiplicity in microarray experiments and the EDR provides an alternative multiple test method for Type I error control in microarray experiments.