How to do quantile normalization correctly for gene expression data analyses.

Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific reports, 2020, 10, (1), pp. 15534
Issue Date:
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Quantile normalization is an important normalization technique commonly used in high-dimensional data analysis. However, it is susceptible to class-effect proportion effects (the proportion of class-correlated variables in a dataset) and batch effects (the presence of potentially confounding technical variation) when applied blindly on whole data sets, resulting in higher false-positive and false-negative rates. We evaluate five strategies for performing quantile normalization, and demonstrate that good performance in terms of batch-effect correction and statistical feature selection can be readily achieved by first splitting data by sample class-labels before performing quantile normalization independently on each split ("Class-specific"). Via simulations with both real and simulated batch effects, we demonstrate that the "Class-specific" strategy (and others relying on similar principles) readily outperform whole-data quantile normalization, and is robust-preserving useful signals even during the combined analysis of separately-normalized datasets. Quantile normalization is a commonly used procedure. But when carelessly applied on whole datasets without first considering class-effect proportion and batch effects, can result in poor performance. If quantile normalization must be used, then we recommend using the "Class-specific" strategy.
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