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Bioinformatics. 2003 May 22;19(8):973-80.

Fuzzy C-means method for clustering microarray data.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS-IMSERM-ULP, BP 10142, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, France.



Clustering analysis of data from DNA microarray hybridization studies is essential for identifying biologically relevant groups of genes. Partitional clustering methods such as K-means or self-organizing maps assign each gene to a single cluster. However, these methods do not provide information about the influence of a given gene for the overall shape of clusters. Here we apply a fuzzy partitioning method, Fuzzy C-means (FCM), to attribute cluster membership values to genes.


A major problem in applying the FCM method for clustering microarray data is the choice of the fuzziness parameter m. We show that the commonly used value m = 2 is not appropriate for some data sets, and that optimal values for m vary widely from one data set to another. We propose an empirical method, based on the distribution of distances between genes in a given data set, to determine an adequate value for m. By setting threshold levels for the membership values, genes which are tigthly associated to a given cluster can be selected. Using a yeast cell cycle data set as an example, we show that this selection increases the overall biological significance of the genes within the cluster.


Supplementary text and Matlab functions are available at

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