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Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

Gene selection with multiple ordering criteria

James J Chen1, Chen-An Tsai2, ShengLi Tzeng2 and Chun-Houh Chen2*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biometry and Risk Assessment, National Center for Toxicological Research, Food and Drug Administration, Jefferson, Arkansas, USA

2 Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica, 128, Academia Rd. Sec. 2, Taipei 115, Taiwan

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-74

Published: 5 March 2007



A microarray study may select different differentially expressed gene sets because of different selection criteria. For example, the fold-change and p-value are two commonly known criteria to select differentially expressed genes under two experimental conditions. These two selection criteria often result in incompatible selected gene sets. Also, in a two-factor, say, treatment by time experiment, the investigator may be interested in one gene list that responds to both treatment and time effects.


We propose three layer ranking algorithms, point-admissible, line-admissible (convex), and Pareto, to provide a preference gene list from multiple gene lists generated by different ranking criteria. Using the public colon data as an example, the layer ranking algorithms are applied to the three univariate ranking criteria, fold-change, p-value, and frequency of selections by the SVM-RFE classifier. A simulation experiment shows that for experiments with small or moderate sample sizes (less than 20 per group) and detecting a 4-fold change or less, the two-dimensional (p-value and fold-change) convex layer ranking selects differentially expressed genes with generally lower FDR and higher power than the standard p-value ranking. Three applications are presented. The first application illustrates a use of the layer rankings to potentially improve predictive accuracy. The second application illustrates an application to a two-factor experiment involving two dose levels and two time points. The layer rankings are applied to selecting differentially expressed genes relating to the dose and time effects. In the third application, the layer rankings are applied to a benchmark data set consisting of three dilution concentrations to provide a ranking system from a long list of differentially expressed genes generated from the three dilution concentrations.


The layer ranking algorithms are useful to help investigators in selecting the most promising genes from multiple gene lists generated by different filter, normalization, or analysis methods for various objectives.