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Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

HoughFeature, a novel method for assessing drug effects in three-color cDNA microarray experiments

Hongya Zhao1* and Hong Yan12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Electronic Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

2 School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:256  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-256

Published: 17 July 2007



Three-color microarray experiments can be performed to assess drug effects on the genomic scale. The methodology may be useful in shortening the cycle, reducing the cost, and improving the efficiency in drug discovery and development compared with the commonly used dual-color technology. A visualization tool, the hexaMplot, is able to show the interrelations of gene expressions in normal-disease-drug samples in three-color microarray data. However, it is not enough to assess the complicated drug therapeutic effects based on the plot alone. It is important to explore more effective tools so that a deeper insight into gene expression patterns can be gained with three-color microarrays.


Based on the celebrated Hough transform, a novel algorithm, HoughFeature, is proposed to extract line features in the hexaMplot corresponding to different drug effects. Drug therapy results can then be divided into a number of levels in relation to different groups of genes. We apply the framework to experimental microarray data to assess the complex effects of Rg1 (an extract of Chinese medicine) on Hcy-related HUVECs in details. Differentially expressed genes are classified into 15 functional groups corresponding to different levels of drug effects.


Our study shows that the HoughFeature algorithm can reveal natural cluster patterns in gene expression data of normal-disease-drug samples. It provides both qualitative and quantitative information about up- or down-regulated genes. The methodology can be employed to predict disease susceptibility in gene therapy and assess drug effects on the disease based on three-color microarray data.