Background: Renal cell carcinoma is a common malignancy that often presents as a metastatic-disease for which there are no effective treatments. To gain insights into the mechanism of renal cell carcinogenesis, a number of genome-wide expression profiling studies have been performed. Surprisingly, there is very poor agreement among these studies as to which genes are differentially regulated. To better understand this lack of agreement we profiled renal cell tumor gene expression using genome-wide microarrays (45,000 probe sets) and compare our analysis to previous microarray studies.
Methods: We hybridized total RNA isolated from renal cell tumors and adjacent normal tissue to Affymetrix U133A and U133B arrays. We removed samples with technical defects and removed probesets that failed to exhibit sequence-specific hybridization in any of the samples. We detected differential gene expression in the resulting dataset with parametric methods and identified keywords that are overrepresented in the differentially expressed genes with the Fisher-exact test.
Results: We identify 1,234 genes that are more than three-fold changed in renal tumors by t-test, 800 of which have not been previously reported to be altered in renal cell tumors. Of the only 37 genes that have been identified as being differentially expressed in three or more of five previous microarray studies of renal tumor gene expression, our analysis finds 33 of these genes (89%). A key to the sensitivity and power of our analysis is filtering out defective samples and genes that are not reliably detected.
Conclusions: The widespread use of sample-wise voting schemes for detecting differential expression that do not control for false positives likely account for the poor overlap among previous studies. Among the many genes we identified using parametric methods that were not previously reported as being differentially expressed in renal cell tumors are several oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that likely play important roles in renal cell carcinogenesis. This highlights the need for rigorous statistical approaches in microarray studies.