Gene expression profile analysis by DNA microarrays: promise and pitfalls

JAMA. 2001 Nov 14;286(18):2280-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.286.18.2280.


DNA microarrays represent a technological intersection between biology and computers that enables gene expression analysis in human tissues on a genome-wide scale. This application can be expected to prove extremely valuable for the study of the genetic basis of complex diseases. Despite the enormous promise of this revolutionary technology, there are several issues and possible pitfalls that may undermine the authority of the microarray platform. We discuss some of the conceptual, practical, statistical, and logistical issues surrounding the use of microarrays for gene expression profiling. These issues include the imprecise definition of normal in expression comparisons; the cellular and subcellular heterogeneity of the tissues being studied; the difficulty in establishing the statistically valid comparability of arrays; the logistical logjam in analysis, presentation, and archiving of the vast quantities of data generated; and the need for confirmational studies that address the functional relevance of findings. Although several complicated issues must be resolved, the potential payoff remains large.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling* / methods
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis*
  • Reference Values