Quantitative assessment of hit detection and confirmation in single and duplicate high-throughput screenings.

Wu Z, Liu D, Sui Y
Journal of biomolecular screening - vol. 13 159-67 (2008)

Journal of biomolecular screening

The process of identifying active targets (hits) in high-throughput screening (HTS) usually involves 2 steps: first, removing or adjusting for systematic variation in the measurement process so that extreme values represent strong biological activity instead of systematic biases such as plate effect or edge effect and, second, choosing a meaningful cutoff on the calculated statistic to declare positive compounds. Both false-positive and false-negative errors are inevitable in this process. Common control or estimation of error rates is often based on an assumption of normal distribution of the noise. The error rates in hit detection, especially false-negative rates, are hard to verify because in most assays, only compounds selected in primary screening are followed up in confirmation experiments. In this article, the authors take advantage of a quantitative HTS experiment in which all compounds are tested 42 times over a wide range of 14 concentrations so true positives can be found through a dose-response curve. Using the activity status defined by dose curve, the authors analyzed the effect of various data-processing procedures on the sensitivity and specificity of hit detection, the control of error rate, and hit confirmation. A new summary score is proposed and demonstrated to perform well in hit detection and useful in confirmation rate estimation. In general, adjusting for positional effects is beneficial, but a robust test can prevent overadjustment. Error rates estimated based on normal assumption do not agree with actual error rates, for the tails of noise distribution deviate from normal distribution. However, false discovery rate based on empirically estimated null distribution is very close to observed false discovery proportion.

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