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Permutation-validated principal components analysis of microarray data

Jobst Landgrebe1, Wolfgang Wurst12 and Gerhard Welzl3*

Author affiliations

1 Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Molecular Neurogenetics, Kraepelinstrasse 2-10, 80804 Munich, Germany

2 Institute of Mammalian Genetics, GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany

3 Institute of Biomathematics and Biometry, GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany

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Citation and License

Genome Biology 2002, 3:research0019-research0019.11  doi:10.1186/gb-2002-3-4-research0019

Published: 22 March 2002



In microarray data analysis, the comparison of gene-expression profiles with respect to different conditions and the selection of biologically interesting genes are crucial tasks. Multivariate statistical methods have been applied to analyze these large datasets. Less work has been published concerning the assessment of the reliability of gene-selection procedures. Here we describe a method to assess reliability in multivariate microarray data analysis using permutation-validated principal components analysis (PCA). The approach is designed for microarray data with a group structure.


We used PCA to detect the major sources of variance underlying the hybridization conditions followed by gene selection based on PCA-derived and permutation-based test statistics. We validated our method by applying it to well characterized yeast cell-cycle data and to two datasets from our laboratory. We could describe the major sources of variance, select informative genes and visualize the relationship of genes and arrays. We observed differences in the level of the explained variance and the interpretability of the selected genes.


Combining data visualization and permutation-based gene selection, permutation-validated PCA enables one to illustrate gene-expression variance between several conditions and to select genes by taking into account the relationship of between-group to within-group variance of genes. The method can be used to extract the leading sources of variance from microarray data, to visualize relationships between genes and hybridizations and to select informative genes in a statistically reliable manner. This selection accounts for the level of reproducibility of replicates or group structure as well as gene-specific scatter. Visualization of the data can support a straightforward biological interpretation.