Enhanced by the growing number of biobanks, biomarker studies can now be performed with reasonable statistical power by using large sets of samples. Antibody-based proteomics by means of suspension bead arrays offers one attractive approach to analyze serum, plasma, or CSF samples for such studies in microtiter plates. To expand measurements beyond single batches, with either 96 or 384 samples per plate, suitable normalization methods are required to minimize the variation between plates. Here we propose two normalization approaches utilizing MA coordinates. The multidimensional MA (multi-MA) and MA-loess both consider all samples of a microtiter plate per suspension bead array assay and thus do not require any external reference samples. We demonstrate the performance of the two MA normalization methods with data obtained from the analysis of 384 samples including both serum and plasma. Samples were randomized across 96-well sample plates, processed, and analyzed in assay plates, respectively. Using principal component analysis (PCA), we could show that plate-wise clusters found in the first two components were eliminated by multi-MA normalization as compared with other normalization methods. Furthermore, we studied the correlation profiles between random pairs of antibodies and found that both MA normalization methods substantially reduced the inflated correlation introduced by plate effects. Normalization approaches using multi-MA and MA-loess minimized batch effects arising from the analysis of several assay plates with antibody suspension bead arrays. In a simulated biomarker study, multi-MA restored associations lost due to plate effects. Our normalization approaches, which are available as R package MDimNormn, could also be useful in studies using other types of high-throughput assay data.
Keywords: affinity proteomics; multiplexed immunoassays; normalization; plate effect.