Motivation: Combining gene expression (GE) profiles generated from different platforms enables previously infeasible studies due to sample size limitations. Several cross-platform normalization methods have been developed to remove the systematic differences between platforms, but they may also remove meaningful biological differences among datasets. In this work, we propose a novel approach that removes the platform, not the biological differences. Dubbed as 'MatchMixeR', we model platform differences by a linear mixed effects regression (LMER) model, and estimate them from matched GE profiles of the same cell line or tissue measured on different platforms. The resulting model can then be used to remove platform differences in other datasets. By using LMER, we achieve better bias-variance trade-off in parameter estimation. We also design a computationally efficient algorithm based on the moment method, which is ideal for ultra-high-dimensional LMER analysis.
Results: Compared with several prominent competing methods, MatchMixeR achieved the highest after-normalization concordance. Subsequent differential expression analyses based on datasets integrated from different platforms showed that using MatchMixeR achieved the best trade-off between true and false discoveries, and this advantage is more apparent in datasets with limited samples or unbalanced group proportions.
Availability and implementation: Our method is implemented in a R-package, 'MatchMixeR', freely available at: https://github.com/dy16b/Cross-Platform-Normalization.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
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