Principal component gene set enrichment (PCGSE)

Principal component gene set enrichment (PCGSE)
H. Robert Frost, Zhigang Li, Jason H. Moore

Motivation: Although principal component analysis (PCA) is widely used for the dimensional reduction of biomedical data, interpretation of PCA results remains daunting. Most existing methods attempt to explain each principal component (PC) in terms of a small number of variables by generating approximate PCs with few non-zero loadings. Although useful when just a few variables dominate the population PCs, these methods are often inadequate for characterizing the PCs of high-dimensional genomic data. For genomic data, reproducible and biologically meaningful PC interpretation requires methods based on the combined signal of functionally related sets of genes. While gene set testing methods have been widely used in supervised settings to quantify the association of groups of genes with clinical outcomes, these methods have seen only limited application for testing the enrichment of gene sets relative to sample PCs. Results: We describe a novel approach, principal component gene set enrichment (PCGSE), for computing the statistical association between gene sets and the PCs of genomic data. The PCGSE method performs a two-stage competitive gene set test using the correlation between each gene and each PC as the gene-level test statistic with flexible choice of both the gene set test statistic and the method used to compute the null distribution of the gene set statistic. Using simulated data with simulated gene sets and real gene expression data with curated gene sets, we demonstrate that biologically meaningful and computationally efficient results can be obtained from a simple parametric version of the PCGSE method that performs a correlation-adjusted two-sample t-test between the gene-level test statistics for gene set members and genes not in the set. Availability: this http URL Contact: rob.frost@dartmouth.edu or jason.h.moore@dartmouth.edu

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