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Open Access Research article

The LO-BaFL method and ALS microarray expression analysis

Cristina Baciu1, Kevin J Thompson1, Jean-Luc Mougeot23, Benjamin R Brooks23 and Jennifer W Weller1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, 28223, USA

2 ALS Biomarker Laboratory, Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS-MDA Center, Department of Neurology, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC, 28207, USA

3 University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Charlotte Campus, Charlotte, NC, 28203, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:244  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-244

Published: 24 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (sALS) is a devastating, complex disease of unknown etiology. We studied this disease with microarray technology to capture as much biological complexity as possible. The Affymetrix-focused BaFL pipeline takes into account problems with probes that arise from physical and biological properties, so we adapted it to handle the long-oligonucleotide probes on our arrays (hence LO-BaFL). The revised method was tested against a validated array experiment and then used in a meta-analysis of peripheral white blood cells from healthy control samples in two experiments. We predicted differentially expressed (DE) genes in our sALS data, combining the results obtained using the TM4 suite of tools with those from the LO-BaFL method. Those predictions were tested using qRT-PCR assays.

Results

LO-BaFL filtering and DE testing accurately predicted previously validated DE genes in a published experiment on coronary artery disease (CAD). Filtering healthy control data from the sALS and CAD studies with LO-BaFL resulted in highly correlated expression levels across many genes. After bioinformatics analysis, twelve genes from the sALS DE gene list were selected for independent testing using qRT-PCR assays. High-quality RNA from six healthy Control and six sALS samples yielded the predicted differential expression for 7 genes: TARDBP, SKIV2L2, C12orf35, DYNLT1, ACTG1, B2M, and ILKAP. Four of the seven have been previously described in sALS studies, while ACTG1, B2M and ILKAP appear in the context of this disease for the first time. Supplementary material can be accessed at: http://webpages.uncc.edu/~cbaciu/LO-BaFL/supplementary_data.html. webcite

Conclusion

LO-BaFL predicts DE results that are broadly similar to those of other methods. The small healthy control cohort in the sALS study is a reasonable foundation for predicting DE genes. Modifying the BaFL pipeline allowed us to remove noise and systematic errors, improving the power of this study, which had a small sample size. Each bioinformatics approach revealed DE genes not predicted by the other; subsequent PCR assays confirmed seven of twelve candidates, a relatively high success rate.