Improving biomarker list stability by integration of biological knowledge in the learning process

Tiziana Sanavia, Fabio Aiolli, Giovanni Da San Martino, Andrea Bisognin, Barbara Di Camillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The identification of robust lists of molecular biomarkers related to a disease is a fundamental step for early diagnosis and treatment. However, methodologies for biomarker discovery using microarray data often provide results with limited overlap. It has been suggested that one reason for these inconsistencies may be that in complex diseases, such as cancer, multiple genes belonging to one or more physiological pathways are associated with the outcomes. Thus, a possible approach to improve list stability is to integrate biological information from genomic databases in the learning process; however, a comprehensive assessment based on different types of biological information is still lacking in the literature. In this work we have compared the effect of using different biological information in the learning process like functional annotations, protein-protein interactions and expression correlation among genes.Results: Biological knowledge has been codified by means of gene similarity matrices and expression data linearly transformed in such a way that the more similar two features are, the more closely they are mapped. Two semantic similarity matrices, based on Biological Process and Molecular Function Gene Ontology annotation, and geodesic distance applied on protein-protein interaction networks, are the best performers in improving list stability maintaining almost equal prediction accuracy.Conclusions: The performed analysis supports the idea that when some features are strongly correlated to each other, for example because are close in the protein-protein interaction network, then they might have similar importance and are equally relevant for the task at hand. Obtained results can be a starting point for additional experiments on combining similarity matrices in order to obtain even more stable lists of biomarkers. The implementation of the classification algorithm is available at the link:

Original languageEnglish
Article numberS22
JournalBMC bioinformatics
Issue numberSUPPL.4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics

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