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PLoS Comput Biol. 2008 Oct 3;4(10):e1000189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000189.

Removal of AU bias from microarray mRNA expression data enhances computational identification of active microRNAs.

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Division of Gene Regulation, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Elucidation of regulatory roles played by microRNAs (miRs) in various biological networks is one of the greatest challenges of present molecular and computational biology. The integrated analysis of gene expression data and 3'-UTR sequences holds great promise for being an effective means to systematically delineate active miRs in different biological processes. Applying such an integrated analysis, we uncovered a striking relationship between 3'-UTR AU content and gene response in numerous microarray datasets. We show that this relationship is secondary to a general bias that links gene response and probe AU content and reflects the fact that in the majority of current arrays probes are selected from target transcript 3'-UTRs. Therefore, removal of this bias, which is in order in any analysis of microarray datasets, is of crucial importance when integrating expression data and 3'-UTR sequences to identify regulatory elements embedded in this region. We developed visualization and normalization schemes for the detection and removal of such AU biases and demonstrate that their application to microarray data significantly enhances the computational identification of active miRs. Our results substantiate that, after removal of AU biases, mRNA expression profiles contain ample information which allows in silico detection of miRs that are active in physiological conditions.

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