Xu Lin, Xianlong Wang, You Guo, Zheng Guo, Qingzhou Guan, Hao Cai, Yunyan Gu, Jun He, Lu Ao, Lishuang Qi, Xiangyu Li
To detect differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in small-scale cell line experiments, usually with only two or three technical replicates for each state, the commonly used statistical methods such as significance analysis of microarrays (SAM), limma and RankProd (RP) lack statistical power, while the fold change method lacks any statistical control. In this study, we demonstrated that the within-sample relative expression orderings (REOs) of gene pairs were highly stable among technical replicates of a cell line but often widely disrupted after certain treatments such like gene knockdown, gene transfection and drug treatment. Based on this finding, we customized the RankComp algorithm, previously designed for individualized differential expression analysis through REO comparison, to identify DEGs with certain statistical control for small-scale cell line data. In both simulated and real data, the new algorithm, named CellComp, exhibited high precision with much higher sensitivity than the original RankComp, SAM, limma and RP methods. Therefore, CellComp provides an efficient tool for analyzing small-scale cell line data.