signatureSearch: environment for gene expression signature searching and functional interpretation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Oct 17;gkaa878. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkaa878. Online ahead of print.


signatureSearch is an R/Bioconductor package that integrates a suite of existing and novel algorithms into an analysis environment for gene expression signature (GES) searching combined with functional enrichment analysis (FEA) and visualization methods to facilitate the interpretation of the search results. In a typical GES search (GESS), a query GES is searched against a database of GESs obtained from large numbers of measurements, such as different genetic backgrounds, disease states and drug perturbations. Database matches sharing correlated signatures with the query indicate related cellular responses frequently governed by connected mechanisms, such as drugs mimicking the expression responses of a disease. To identify which processes are predominantly modulated in the GESS results, we developed specialized FEA methods combined with drug-target network visualization tools. The provided analysis tools are useful for studying the effects of genetic, chemical and environmental perturbations on biological systems, as well as searching single cell GES databases to identify novel network connections or cell types. The signatureSearch software is unique in that it provides access to an integrated environment for GESS/FEA routines that includes several novel search and enrichment methods, efficient data structures, and access to pre-built GES databases, and allowing users to work with custom databases.