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Nucleic Acids Res. 2004 Jul 8;32(12):e99.

Optimization of probe length and the number of probes per gene for optimal microarray analysis of gene expression.

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Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan 115, Republic of China.


Gene-specific oligonucleotide probes are currently used in microarrays to avoid cross-hybridization of highly similar sequences. We developed an approach to determine the optimal number and length of gene-specific probes for accurate transcriptional profiling studies. The study surveyed probe lengths from 25 to 1000 nt. Long probes yield better signal intensity than short probes. The signal intensity of short probes can be improved by addition of spacers or using higher probe concentration for spotting. We also found that accurate gene expression measurement can be achieved with multiple probes per gene and fewer probes are needed if longer probes rather than shorter probes are used. Based on theoretical considerations that were confirmed experimentally, our results showed that 150mer is the optimal probe length for expression measurement. Gene-specific probes can be identified using a computational approach for 150mer probes and they can be treated like long cDNA probes in terms of the hybridization reaction for high sensitivity detection. Our experimental data also show that probes which do not generate good signal intensity give erroneous expression ratio measurement results. To use microarray probes without experimental validation, gene-specific probes approximately 150mer in length are necessary. However, shorter oligonucleotide probes also work well in gene expression analysis if the probes are validated by experimental selection or if multiple probes per gene are used for expression measurement.

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