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Gene set analysis for self-contained tests: Complex null and specific alternative hypotheses

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3073-3080
Number of pages8
JournalBioinformatics
Volume28
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Abstract

Motivation: The analysis of differentially expressed gene sets became a routine in the analyses of gene expression data. There is a multitude of tests available, ranging from aggregation tests that summarize gene-level statistics for a gene set to true multivariate tests, accounting for intergene correlations. Most of them detect complex departures from the null hypothesis but when the null hypothesis is rejected the specific alternative leading to the rejection is not easily identifiable. Results: In this article we compare the power and Type I error rates of minimum-spanning tree (MST)-based non-parametric multivariate tests with several multivariate and aggregation tests, which are frequently used for pathway analyses. In our simulation study, we demonstrate that MST-based tests have power that is for many settings comparable with the power of conventional approaches, but outperform them in specific regions of the parameter space corresponding to biologically relevant configurations. Further, we find for simulated and for gene expression data that MST-based tests discriminate well against shift and scale alternatives. As a general result, we suggest a two-step practical analysis strategy that may increase the interpretability of experimental data: first, apply the most powerful multivariate test to find the subset of pathways for which the null hypothesis is rejected and second, apply MST-based tests to these pathways to select those that support specific alternative hypotheses.