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This article is part of the supplement: BioSysBio 2007: Systems Biology, Bioinformatics, Synthetic Biology

Open Access Poster presentation

Variance stabilising transformations for NMR metabolomics data

Helen Parsons* and Mark Viant

Author Affiliations

School of Biosciences, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Systems Biology 2007, 1(Suppl 1):P22  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-1-S1-P22

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:8 May 2007

© 2007 Parsons and Viant; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Poster presentation

Classifying the fingerprint of an NMR spectrum is a crucial step in many metabolomics experiments. Since many classification techniques such as principal component analysis (PCA) depend upon variance discrepancies, it is important to first maximise any contribution from wanted class variance between biological samples and minimise any contribution from unwanted technical variance arising from the preparation of the samples and measurement of the NMR metabolic fingerprints. The generalised logarithm (glog) transform was developed to stabilise the variance between technical replicates in a two component error model [1] and has also been applied to NMR spectra previously [2]. To increase the effectiveness of the transform on NMR spectra, the glog was extended to include a baseline offset term. This decreases the unwanted noise contribution on the transformed spectra. The extended glog transformation is given as:

<a onClick="popup('','MathML',630,470);return false;" target="_blank" href="">View MathML</a>

for z the transformed intensity and y the original intensity of the spectra. y0 and λ are transformation parameters which are to be found.

Here we have applied the extended glog transform to technical replicates of NMR spectra of tissue extracts from marine mussels, to determine the optimised transformation parameters λ and y0. Next we applied the optimised transformation to a data set comprised of two classes of NMR spectra from stressed and unstressed mussels. Following transformation, the results show significantly better separation of the classes on a PCA scores plot than can be achieved with both untransformed data and also data transformed using Pareto scaling, a widely used method in NMR metabolomics [3]. In conclusion, we have demonstrated the value of the extended glog transformation to stabilise the technical variance in an NMR metabolomics dataset and have achieved significantly improved classification of NMR fingerprints from stressed and unstressed animals.


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  3. Keun H, Ebbels T, Antti H, Bollard M, Beckonert O, Holmes E, Lindon J, Nicholson J: Improved analysis of multivariate data by variable stability scaling: application to NMR-based metabolic profiling.

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