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Open Access Research article

Importance of data structure in comparing two dimension reduction methods for classification of microarray gene expression data

Caroline Truntzer1*, Catherine Mercier1, Jacques Estève1, Christian Gautier2 and Pascal Roy1

Author Affiliations

1 CNRS, UMR 5558 – Equipe Biostatistique Santé, Villeurbanne, F-69100, France, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Laboratoire Biostatistique Santé – UMR 5558, Villeurbanne, F-69100, France, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Service de Biostatistique, Lyon, F-69003, France

2 Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1, Laboratoire de Biométrie et de Biologie Evolutive – UMR CNRS 5558, Villeurbanne, F-69100, France

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-90

Published: 13 March 2007



With the advance of microarray technology, several methods for gene classification and prognosis have been already designed. However, under various denominations, some of these methods have similar approaches. This study evaluates the influence of gene expression variance structure on the performance of methods that describe the relationship between gene expression levels and a given phenotype through projection of data onto discriminant axes.


We compared Between-Group Analysis and Discriminant Analysis (with prior dimension reduction through Partial Least Squares or Principal Components Analysis). A geometric approach showed that these two methods are strongly related, but differ in the way they handle data structure. Yet, data structure helps understanding the predictive efficiency of these methods. Three main structure situations may be identified. When the clusters of points are clearly split, both methods perform equally well. When the clusters superpose, both methods fail to give interesting predictions. In intermediate situations, the configuration of the clusters of points has to be handled by the projection to improve prediction. For this, we recommend Discriminant Analysis. Besides, an innovative way of simulation generated the three main structures by modelling different partitions of the whole variance into within-group and between-group variances. These simulated datasets were used in complement to some well-known public datasets to investigate the methods behaviour in a large diversity of structure situations. To examine the structure of a dataset before analysis and preselect an a priori appropriate method for its analysis, we proposed a two-graph preliminary visualization tool: plotting patients on the Between-Group Analysis discriminant axis (x-axis) and on the first and the second within-group Principal Components Analysis component (y-axis), respectively.


Discriminant Analysis outperformed Between-Group Analysis because it allows for the dataset structure. An a priori knowledge of that structure may guide the choice of the analysis method. Simulated datasets with known properties are valuable to assess and compare the performance of analysis methods, then implementation on real datasets checks and validates the results. Thus, we warn against the use of unchallenging datasets for method comparison, such as the Golub dataset, because their structure is such that any method would be efficient.