springScape: visualisation of microarray and contextual bioinformatic data using spring embedding and an 'information landscape'

Bioinformatics. 2006 Jul 15;22(14):e99-107. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btl205.


The interpretation of microarray and other high-throughput data is highly dependent on the biological context of experiments. However, standard analysis packages are poor at simultaneously presenting both the array and related bioinformatic data. We have addressed this challenge by developing a system springScape based on 'spring embedding' and an 'information landscape' allowing several related data sources to be dynamically combined while highlighting one particular feature. Each data source is represented as a network of nodes connected by weighted edges. The networks are combined and embedded in the 2-D plane by spring embedding such that nodes with a high similarity are drawn close together. Complex relationships can be discovered by varying the weight of each data source and observing the dynamic response of the spring network. By modifying Procrustes analysis, we find that the visualizations have an acceptable degree of reproducibility. The 'information landscape' highlights one particular data source, displaying it as a smooth surface whose height is proportional to both the information being viewed and the density of nodes. The algorithm is demonstrated using several microarray data sets in combination with protein-protein interaction data and GO annotations. Among the features revealed are the spatio-temporal profile of gene expression and the identification of GO terms correlated with gene expression and protein interactions. The power of this combined display lies in its interactive feedback and exploitation of human visual pattern recognition. Overall, springScape shows promise as a tool for the interpretation of microarray data in the context of relevant bioinformatic information.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Database Management Systems
  • Databases, Protein*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods*
  • Protein Interaction Mapping / methods
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Software
  • User-Computer Interface*


  • Proteome