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Open Access Methodology article

A model of binding on DNA microarrays: understanding the combined effect of probe synthesis failure, cross-hybridization, DNA fragmentation and other experimental details of affymetrix arrays

Yasminka A Jakubek12 and David J Cutler1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA

2 Graduate Program in Genetics and Molecular Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:737  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-737

Published: 27 December 2012



DNA microarrays are used both for research and for diagnostics. In research, Affymetrix arrays are commonly used for genome wide association studies, resequencing, and for gene expression analysis. These arrays provide large amounts of data. This data is analyzed using statistical methods that quite often discard a large portion of the information. Most of the information that is lost comes from probes that systematically fail across chips and from batch effects. The aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive model for hybridization that predicts probe intensities for Affymetrix arrays and that could provide a basis for improved microarray analysis and probe development. The first part of the model calculates probe binding affinities to all the possible targets in the hybridization solution using the Langmuir isotherm. In the second part of the model we integrate details that are specific to each experiment and contribute to the differences between hybridization in solution and on the microarray. These details include fragmentation, wash stringency, temperature, salt concentration, and scanner settings. Furthermore, the model fits probe synthesis efficiency and target concentration parameters directly to the data. All the parameters used in the model have a well-established physical origin.


For the 302 chips that were analyzed the mean correlation between expected and observed probe intensities was 0.701 with a range of 0.88 to 0.55. All available chips were included in the analysis regardless of the data quality. Our results show that batch effects arise from differences in probe synthesis, scanner settings, wash strength, and target fragmentation. We also show that probe synthesis efficiencies for different nucleotides are not uniform.


To date this is the most complete model for binding on microarrays. This is the first model that includes both probe synthesis efficiency and hybridization kinetics/cross-hybridization. These two factors are sequence dependent and have a large impact on probe intensity. The results presented here provide novel insight into the effect of probe synthesis errors on Affymetrix microarrays; furthermore, the algorithms developed in this work provide useful tools for the analysis of cross-hybridization, probe synthesis efficiency, fragmentation, wash stringency, temperature, and salt concentration on microarray intensities.