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Bioinformatics. 2005 Jun 15;21(12):2875-82. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Donuts, scratches and blanks: robust model-based segmentation of microarray images.

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Department of Statistics, Box 354322 University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.



Inner holes, artifacts and blank spots are common in microarray images, but current image analysis methods do not pay them enough attention. We propose a new robust model-based method for processing microarray images so as to estimate foreground and background intensities. The method starts with a very simple but effective automatic gridding method, and then proceeds in two steps. The first step applies model-based clustering to the distribution of pixel intensities, using the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) to choose the number of groups up to a maximum of three. The second step is spatial, finding the large spatially connected components in each cluster of pixels. The method thus combines the strengths of the histogram-based and spatial approaches. It deals effectively with inner holes in spots and with artifacts. It also provides a formal inferential basis for deciding when the spot is blank, namely when the BIC favors one group over two or three.


We apply our methods for gridding and segmentation to cDNA microarray images from an HIV infection experiment. In these experiments, our method had better stability across replicates than a fixed-circle segmentation method or the seeded region growing method in the SPOT software, without introducing noticeable bias when estimating the intensities of differentially expressed genes.


spotSegmentation, an R language package implementing both the gridding and segmentation methods is available through the Bioconductor project ( The segmentation method requires the contributed R package MCLUST for model-based clustering (


[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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