BACKGROUND: In gene networks, the timing of significant changes in the expression level of each gene may be the most critical information in time course expression profiles. With the same timing of the initial change, genes which share similar patterns of expression for any number of sampling intervals from the beginning should be considered co-expressed at certain level(s) in the gene networks. In addition, multiple testing problems are complicated in experiments with multi-level treatments when thousands of genes are involved.

RESULTS: To address these issues, we first performed an ANOVA F test to identify significantly regulated genes. The Benjamini and Hochberg (BH) procedure of controlling false discovery rate (FDR) at 5% was applied to the P values of the F test. We then categorized the genes with a significant F test into 4 classes based on the timing of their initial responses by sequentially testing a complete set of orthogonal contrasts, the reverse Helmert series. For genes within each class, specific sequences of contrasts were performed to characterize their general 'fluctuation' shapes of expression along the subsequent sampling time points. To be consistent with the BH procedure, each contrast was examined using a stepwise Studentized Maximum Modulus test to control the gene based maximum family-wise error rate (MFWER) at the level of alphanew determined by the BH procedure. We demonstrated our method on the analysis of microarray data from murine olfactory sensory epithelia at five different time points after target ablation.

CONCLUSION: In this manuscript, we used planned linear contrasts to analyze time-course microarray experiments. This analysis allowed us to characterize gene expression patterns based on the temporal order in the data, the timing of a gene's initial response, and the general shapes of gene expression patterns along the subsequent sampling time points. Our method is particularly suitable for analysis of microarray experiments in which it is often difficult to take sufficiently frequent measurements and/or the sampling intervals are non-uniform.

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Published in BMC Bioinformatics, v. 7, 245.

© 2006 Li et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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