Gene set bagging for estimating replicability of gene set analyses


Background: Significance analysis plays a major role in identifying and ranking genes, transcription factor binding sites, DNA methylation regions, and other high-throughput features for association with disease. We propose a new approach, called gene set bagging, for measuring the stability of ranking procedures using predefined gene sets. Gene set bagging involves resampling the original high-throughput data, performing gene-set analysis on the resampled data, and confirming that biological categories replicate. This procedure can be thought of as bootstrapping gene-set analysis and can be used to determine which are the most reproducible gene sets. Results: Here we apply this approach to two common genomics applications: gene expression and DNA methylation. Even with state-of-the-art statistical ranking procedures, significant categories in a gene set enrichment analysis may be unstable when subjected to resampling. Conclusions: We demonstrate that gene lists are not necessarily stable, and therefore additional steps like gene set bagging can improve biological inference of gene set analysis.

arXiv, 1301.3933