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Erhard, Florian and Zimmer, Ralf (2015): Count ratio model reveals bias affecting NGS fold changes. In: Nucleic Acids Research, Vol. 43, No. 20, e136 [PDF, 1MB]

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Various biases affect high-throughput sequencing read counts. Contrary to the general assumption, we show that bias does not always cancel out when fold changes are computed and that bias affects more than 20% of genes that are called differentially regulated in RNA-seq experiments with drastic effects on subsequent biological interpretation. Here, we propose a novel approach to estimate fold changes. Our method is based on a probabilistic model that directly incorporates count ratios instead of read counts. It provides a theoretical foundation for pseudo-counts and can be used to estimate fold change credible intervals as well as normalization factors that outperform currently used normalization methods. We show that fold change estimates are significantly improved by our method by comparing RNA-seq derived fold changes to qPCR data from the MAQC/SEQC project as a reference and analyzing random barcoded sequencing data. Our software implementation is freely available from the project website http://www.bio.ifi.lmu.de/software/lfc.

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