nbp.test: NBP Test for Differential Gene Expression from RNA-Seq Counts

View source: R/nbp.main.R

nbp.testR Documentation

NBP Test for Differential Gene Expression from RNA-Seq Counts


nbp.test fits an NBP model to the RNA-Seq counts and performs Robinson and Smyth's exact NB test on each gene to assess differential gene expression between two groups.


nbp.test(counts, grp.ids, grp1, grp2, norm.factors = rep(1, dim(counts)[2]),
  model.disp = "NBQ", lib.sizes = colSums(counts), print.level = 1, ...)



an n by r matrix of RNA-Seq read counts with rows corresponding to genes (exons, gene isoforms, etc) and columns corresponding to libraries (independent biological samples).


an r vector of treatment group identifiers (e.g. integers).


group 1 id


group 2 id


an r vector of normalization factors.


a string, one of "NB2", "NBP" or "NBQ" (default).


(unnormalized) library sizes


a number, controls the amount of messages printed: 0 for suppressing all messages, 1 (default) for basic progress messages, and 2 to 5 for increasingly more detailed messages.


optional parameters to be passed to estimate.disp, the function that estimates the dispersion parameters.


nbp.test calls prepare.nbp to create the NBP data structure, perform optional normalization and adjust library sizes, calls estimate.disp to estimate the NBP dispersion parameters and exact.nb.test to perform the exact NB test for differential gene expression on each gene. The results are summarized using p-values and q-values (FDR).


For assessing evidence for differential gene expression from RNA-Seq read counts, it is critical to adequately model the count variability between independent biological replicates. Negative binomial (NB) distribution offers a more realistic model for RNA-Seq count variability than Poisson distribution and still permits an exact (non-asymptotic) test for comparing two groups.

For each individual gene, an NB distribution uses a dispersion parameter φ_i to model the extra-Poisson variation between biological replicates. Across all genes, parameter φ_i tends to vary with the mean μ_i. We capture the dispersion-mean dependence using a parametric model: NB2, NBP and NBQ. (See estimate.disp for more details.)

Count Normalization

We take gene expression to be indicated by relative frequency of RNA-Seq reads mapped to a gene, relative to library sizes (column sums of the count matrix). Since the relative frequencies sum to 1 in each library (one column of the count matrix), the increased relative frequencies of truly over expressed genes in each column must be accompanied by decreased relative frequencies of other genes, even when those others do not truly differentially express. Robinson and Oshlack (2010) presented examples where this problem is noticeable.

A simple fix is to compute the relative frequencies relative to effective library sizes—library sizes multiplied by normalization factors. By default, nbp.test assumes the normalization factors are 1 (i.e. no normalization is needed). Users can specify normalization factors through the argument norm.factors. Many authors (Robinson and Oshlack (2010), Anders and Huber (2010)) propose to estimate the normalization factors based on the assumption that most genes are NOT differentially expressed.

Library Size Adjustment

The exact test requires that the effective library sizes (column sums of the count matrix multiplied by normalization factors) are approximately equal. By default, nbp.test will thin (downsample) the counts to make the effective library sizes equal. Thinning may lose statistical efficiency, but is unlikely to introduce bias.


a list with the following components:


an n by r matrix of counts, same as input.


an r vector, column sums of the count matrix.


an r vector, identifiers of treatment groups, same as input.

grp1, grp2

identifiers of the two groups to be compared, same as input.


an r vector, effective library sizes, lib.sizes multiplied by the normalization factors.


count matrix after thinning, same dimension as counts


an r vector, effective library sizes of pseudo counts, i.e., column sums of the pseudo count matrix multiplied by the normalization.

phi, alpha

two numbers, parameters of the dispersion model.


a matrix, same dimension as counts, estimated mean relative frequencies of RNA-Seq reads mapped to each gene.


a matrix, same dimenions as counts, estimated pooled mean of relative frequencies in the two groups being compared.


a n by 3 matrix, estimated gene expression levels as indicated by mean relative frequencies of RNA-Seq reads. It has three columns grp1, grp2, pooled corresponding to the two treatment groups and the pooled mean.


an n-vector, base 2 log fold change in mean relative frequency between two groups.


an n-vector, p-values of the exact NB test applied to each gene (row).


an n-vector, q-values (estimated FDR) corresponding to the p-values.


Due to thinning (random downsampling of counts), two identical calls to nbp.test may yield slightly different results. A random number seed can be used to make the results reproducible. The regression analysis method implemented in nb.glm.test does not require thinning and can also be used to compare expression in two groups.

Advanced users can call estimate.norm.factors, prepare.nbp, estimate.disp, exact.nb.test directly to have more control over modeling and testing.


Di, Y, D. W. Schafer, J. S. Cumbie, and J. H. Chang (2011): "The NBP Negative Binomial Model for Assessing Differential Gene Expression from RNA-Seq", Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology, 10 (1).

Robinson, M. D. and G. K. Smyth (2007): "Moderated statistical tests for assessing differences in tag abundance," Bioinformatics, 23, 2881-2887.

Robinson, M. D. and G. K. Smyth (2008): "Small-sample estimation of negative binomial dispersion, with applications to SAGE data," Biostatistics, 9, 321-332.

Anders, S. and W. Huber (2010): "Differential expression analysis for sequence count data," Genome Biol., 11, R106.

Robinson, M. D. and A. Oshlack (2010): "A scaling normalization method for differential expression analysis of RNA-seq data," Genome Biol., 11, R25.

See Also

prepare.nbp, estimate.disp, exact.nb.test.


## Load Arabidopsis data

## Specify treatment groups and ids of the two groups to be compared
grp.ids = c(1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2);
grp1 = 1;
grp2 = 2;

## Estimate normalization factors
norm.factors = estimate.norm.factors(arab);

## Set a random number seed to make results reproducible

## Fit the NBP model and perform exact NB test for differential gene expression.
## For demonstration purpose, we will use the first 100 rows of the arab data.
res = nbp.test(arab[1:100,], grp.ids, grp1, grp2,
  lib.sizes = colSums(arab), norm.factors = norm.factors, print.level=3);

## The argument lib.sizes is needed since we only use a subset of
## rows. If all rows are used, the following will be adequate:
## res = nbp.test(arab, grp.ids, grp1, grp2, norm.factors = norm.factors);

## Show top ten most differentially expressed genes
subset = order(res$p.values)[1:10];
print(res, subset);

## Count the number of differentially expressed genes (e.g. qvalue < 0.05)
alpha = 0.05;
sig.res = res$q.values < alpha;

## Show boxplots, MA-plot, mean-variance plot and mean-dispersion plot

NBPSeq documentation built on June 9, 2022, 5:06 p.m.