Email updates

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

Open Access Research article

A meta-data based method for DNA microarray imputation

Rebecka Jörnsten1, Ming Ouyang2* and Hui-Yu Wang3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Statistics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA

2 Informatics Institute, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA

3 9 Stoecker Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-109

Published: 29 March 2007



DNA microarray experiments are conducted in logical sets, such as time course profiling after a treatment is applied to the samples, or comparisons of the samples under two or more conditions. Due to cost and design constraints of spotted cDNA microarray experiments, each logical set commonly includes only a small number of replicates per condition. Despite the vast improvement of the microarray technology in recent years, missing values are prevalent. Intuitively, imputation of missing values is best done using many replicates within the same logical set. In practice, there are few replicates and thus reliable imputation within logical sets is difficult. However, it is in the case of few replicates that the presence of missing values, and how they are imputed, can have the most profound impact on the outcome of downstream analyses (e.g. significance analysis and clustering). This study explores the feasibility of imputation across logical sets, using the vast amount of publicly available microarray data to improve imputation reliability in the small sample size setting.


We download all cDNA microarray data of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Arabidopsis thaliana, and Caenorhabditis elegans from the Stanford Microarray Database. Through cross-validation and simulation, we find that, for all three species, our proposed imputation using data from public databases is far superior to imputation within a logical set, sometimes to an astonishing degree. Furthermore, the imputation root mean square error for significant genes is generally a lot less than that of non-significant ones.


Since downstream analysis of significant genes, such as clustering and network analysis, can be very sensitive to small perturbations of estimated gene effects, it is highly recommended that researchers apply reliable data imputation prior to further analysis. Our method can also be applied to cDNA microarray experiments from other species, provided good reference data are available.