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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Feature selection and classification for microarray data analysis: Evolutionary methods for identifying predictive genes

Thanyaluk Jirapech-Umpai* and Stuart Aitken

Author Affiliations

School of Informatics, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9LE, United Kingdom

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BMC Bioinformatics 2005, 6:148  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-148

Published: 15 June 2005

Abstract

Background

In the clinical context, samples assayed by microarray are often classified by cell line or tumour type and it is of interest to discover a set of genes that can be used as class predictors. The leukemia dataset of Golub et al. [1] and the NCI60 dataset of Ross et al. [2] present multiclass classification problems where three tumour types and nine cell lines respectively must be identified. We apply an evolutionary algorithm to identify the near-optimal set of predictive genes that classify the data. We also examine the initial gene selection step whereby the most informative genes are selected from the genes assayed.

Results

In the absence of feature selection, classification accuracy on the training data is typically good, but not replicated on the testing data. Gene selection using the RankGene software [3] is shown to significantly improve performance on the testing data. Further, we show that the choice of feature selection criteria can have a significant effect on accuracy. The evolutionary algorithm is shown to perform stably across the space of possible parameter settings – indicating the robustness of the approach. We assess performance using a low variance estimation technique, and present an analysis of the genes most often selected as predictors.

Conclusion

The computational methods we have developed perform robustly and accurately, and yield results in accord with clinical knowledge: A Z-score analysis of the genes most frequently selected identifies genes known to discriminate AML and Pre-T ALL leukemia. This study also confirms that significantly different sets of genes are found to be most discriminatory as the sample classes are refined.