Although they have become a widely used experimental technique for identifying differentially expressed (DE) genes, DNA microarrays are notorious for generating noisy data. A common strategy for mitigating the effects of noise is to perform many experimental replicates. This approach is often costly and sometimes impossible given limited resources; thus, analytical methods are needed which increase accuracy at no additional cost. One inexpensive source of microarray replicates comes from prior work: to date, data from hundreds of thousands of microarray experiments are in the public domain. Although these data assay a wide range of conditions, they cannot be used directly to inform any particular experiment and are thus ignored by most DE gene methods. We present the SVD Augmented Gene expression Analysis Tool (SAGAT), a mathematically principled, data-driven approach for identifying DE genes. SAGAT increases the power of a microarray experiment by using observed coexpression relationships from publicly available microarray datasets to reduce uncertainty in individual genes' expression measurements. We tested the method on three well-replicated human microarray datasets and demonstrate that use of SAGAT increased effective sample sizes by as many as 2.72 arrays. We applied SAGAT to unpublished data from a microarray study investigating transcriptional responses to insulin resistance, resulting in a 50% increase in the number of significant genes detected. We evaluated 11 (58%) of these genes experimentally using qPCR, confirming the directions of expression change for all 11 and statistical significance for three. Use of SAGAT revealed coherent biological changes in three pathways: inflammation, differentiation, and fatty acid synthesis, furthering our molecular understanding of a type 2 diabetes risk factor. We envision SAGAT as a means to maximize the potential for biological discovery from subtle transcriptional responses, and we provide it as a freely available software package that is immediately applicable to any human microarray study.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000718
View details for Web of Science ID 000278125200026
View details for PubMedID 20361040
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2845644