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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the Twelfth Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC 2014): Genomics

Open Access Proceedings

Concordant integrative gene set enrichment analysis of multiple large-scale two-sample expression data sets

Yinglei Lai1*, Fanni Zhang1, Tapan K Nayak1, Reza Modarres1, Norman H Lee2 and Timothy A McCaffrey3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Statistics, The George Washington University, 801 22nd St. NW. Rome Hall, Room 553, Washington, D.C. 20052, USA

2 Department of Pharmacology, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20037, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Division of Genomic Medicine, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20037, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15(Suppl 1):S6  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-S1-S6

Published: 24 January 2014



Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) is an important approach to the analysis of coordinate expression changes at a pathway level. Although many statistical and computational methods have been proposed for GSEA, the issue of a concordant integrative GSEA of multiple expression data sets has not been well addressed. Among different related data sets collected for the same or similar study purposes, it is important to identify pathways or gene sets with concordant enrichment.


We categorize the underlying true states of differential expression into three representative categories: no change, positive change and negative change. Due to data noise, what we observe from experiments may not indicate the underlying truth. Although these categories are not observed in practice, they can be considered in a mixture model framework. Then, we define the mathematical concept of concordant gene set enrichment and calculate its related probability based on a three-component multivariate normal mixture model. The related false discovery rate can be calculated and used to rank different gene sets.


We used three published lung cancer microarray gene expression data sets to illustrate our proposed method. One analysis based on the first two data sets was conducted to compare our result with a previous published result based on a GSEA conducted separately for each individual data set. This comparison illustrates the advantage of our proposed concordant integrative gene set enrichment analysis. Then, with a relatively new and larger pathway collection, we used our method to conduct an integrative analysis of the first two data sets and also all three data sets. Both results showed that many gene sets could be identified with low false discovery rates. A consistency between both results was also observed. A further exploration based on the KEGG cancer pathway collection showed that a majority of these pathways could be identified by our proposed method.


This study illustrates that we can improve detection power and discovery consistency through a concordant integrative analysis of multiple large-scale two-sample gene expression data sets.