RNA-seq assistant – machine learning based methods to identify more transcriptional regulated genes

Although different quality controls have been applied at different stages of the sample preparation and data analysis to ensure both reproducibility and reliability of RNA-seq results, there are still limitations and bias on the detectability for certain differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Whether the transcriptional dynamics of a gene can be captured accurately depends on experimental design/operation and the following data analysis processes. The workflow of subsequent data processing, such as reads alignment, transcript quantification, normalization, and statistical methods for ultimate identification of DEGs can influence the accuracy and sensitivity of DEGs analysis, producing a certain number of false-positivity or false-negativity. Machine learning (ML) is a multidisciplinary field that employs computer science, artificial intelligence, computational statistics and information theory to construct algorithms that can learn from existing data sets and to make predictions on new data set. ML-based differential network analysis has been applied to predict stress-responsive genes through learning the patterns of 32 expression characteristics of known stress-related genes. In addition, the epigenetic regulation plays critical roles in gene expression, therefore, DNA and histone methylation data has been shown to be powerful for ML-based model for prediction of gene expression in many systems, including lung cancer cells. Therefore, it is promising that ML-based methods could help to identify the DEGs that are not identified by traditional RNA-seq method.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin identified the top 23 most informative features through assessing the performance of three different feature selection algorithms combined with five different classification methods on training and testing data sets. By comprehensive comparison, they found that the model based on InfoGain feature selection and Logistic Regression classification is powerful for DEGs prediction. Moreover, the power and performance of ML-based prediction was validated by the prediction on ethylene regulated gene expression and the following qRT-PCR.

Comparative Evaluation different machine learning based model


a-c For each predicted gene list, the class probability estimation (green line), the predicted precision of true positive genes in each bin (blue line) and the predicted precision of total known predicted genes (red line) were plotted to illustrate the prediction accuracy of a Logistic Regression, b Classification Via Regression and c Random Subspace based methods. d Number of true positive (TP) or false positive (FP) genes that predicted by different methods using ChIP-Seq data from ein2–5

Wang L, Xi Y, Sung S, Qiao H. (2018) RNA-seq assistant: machine learning based methods to identify more transcriptional regulated genes. BMC Genomics 19(1):546. [article]

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