A two-stage statistical procedure for feature selection and comparison in functional analysis of metagenomes

Naruekamol Pookhao, Michael B. Sohn, Qike Li, Isaac Jenkins, Ruofei Du, Hongmei Jiang, Lingling An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Motivation: With the advance of new sequencing technologies producing massive short reads data, metagenomics is rapidly growing, especially in the fields of environmental biology and medical science. The metagenomic data are not only high dimensional with large number of features and limited number of samples but also complex with a large number of zeros and skewed distribution. Efficient computational and statistical tools are needed to deal with these unique characteristics of metagenomic sequencing data. In metagenomic studies, one main objective is to assess whether and how multiple microbial communities differ under various environmental conditions. Results: We propose a two-stage statistical procedure for selecting informative features and identifying differentially abundant features between two or more groups of microbial communities. In the functional analysis of metagenomes, the features may refer to the pathways, subsystems, functional roles and so on. In the first stage of the proposed procedure, the informative features are selected using elastic net as reducing the dimension of metagenomic data. In the second stage, the differentially abundant features are detected using generalized linear models with a negative binomial distribution. Compared with other available methods, the proposed approach demonstrates better performance for most of the comprehensive simulation studies. The new method is also applied to two real metagenomic datasets related to human health. Our findings are consistent with those in previous reports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-165
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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