Do DNA Microarrays Tell the Story of Gene Expression?

Rosenfeld, Simon
January 2010
Gene Regulation & Systems Biology;2010, Issue 4, p61
Academic Journal
Poor reproducibility of microarray measurements is a major obstacle to their application as an instrument for clinical diagnostics. In this paper, several aspects of poor reproducibility are analyzed. All of them belong to the category of interpretive weaknesses of DNA microarray technology. First, the attention is drawn to the fact that absence of the information regarding post-transcriptional mRNA stability makes it impossible to evaluate the level of gene activity from the relative mRNA abundances, the quantities available from microarray measurements. Second, irreducible intracellular variability with persistent patterns of stochasticity and burstiness put natural limits to reproducibility. Third, strong interactions within intracellular biomolecular networks make it highly problematic to build a bridge between transcription rates of individual genes and structural fidelity of their genetic codes. For these reasons, the microarray measurements of relative mRNA abundances are more appropriate in laboratory settings as a tool for scientific research, hypotheses generating and producing the leads for subsequent validation through more sophisticated technologies. As to clinical settings, where firm conclusive diagnoses, not the leads for further experimentation, are required, microarrays still have a long way to go until they become a reliable instrument in patient-related decision making.


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