Complementary feature selection from alternative splicing events and gene expression for phenotype prediction

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Motivation: A central task of bioinformatics is to develop sensitive and specific means of providing medical prognoses from biomarker patterns. Common methods to predict phenotypes in RNA-Seq datasets utilize machine learning algorithms trained via gene expression. Isoforms, however, generated from alternative splicing, may provide a novel and complementary set of transcripts for phenotype prediction. In contrast to gene expression, the number of isoforms increases significantly due to numerous alternative splicing patterns, resulting in a prioritization problem for many machine learning algorithms. This study identifies the empirically optimal methods of transcript quantification, feature engineering and filtering steps using phenotype prediction accuracy as a metric. At the same time, the complementary nature of gene and isoform data is analyzed and the feasibility of identifying isoforms as biomarker candidates is examined.

Results: Isoform features are complementary to gene features, providing non-redundant information and enhanced predictive power when prioritized and filtered. A univariate filtering algorithm, which selects up to the N highest ranking features for phenotype prediction is described and evaluated in this study. An empirical comparison of pipelines for isoform quantification is reported by performing cross-validation prediction tests with datasets from human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, human patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) transgenic mice, each including samples of diseased and non-diseased phenotypes.

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