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Pathway analysis: DAVID versus GSEA

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Pathway analysis has become such a common procedure in bioinformatics, especially in studying gene expression. If you look at a survey of recent papers it seems that there is a bunch of ways that it can be done. In this post, I'll discuss the differences between two commonly used tools; DAVID and GSEA.
The concepts behind the two algorithms are very different. DAVID determines overlaps between user-supplied gene lists and the curated databases, looking for overlaps that are bigger than that expected by random chance. You can improve the accuracy of the algorithm by providing a background file that contains all genes that were considered/detected in the experiment. The user-supplied gene sets are normally generated by selecting genes that pass a significance threshold. The DAVID procedure is similar to others available such as Ingenuity, AmiGO and GeneGO. The selection of significance values is largely arbitrary, but it is common to set the threshold at FDR adjusted p<0.05. Modi…