Extremely low P-values when using Limma on high sample size proteomics data
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Entering edit mode
@035265c1
Last seen 5 days ago
Denmark

Dear all,

I am using Limma for differential expression analysis of proteomics data. I am comparing muscle fiber types from isolated single muscle fibers and although the linear model and the fold changes look alright, the P-values of the protein comparisons look oddly low and the number of signifficant hits is too high (around 1200 out of 1600 proteins are signifficantly different between two groups).

Has anyone experienced something similar while working with Limma? Any suggestions on what could be happening for the P-values to be so weird? In case my n-sizes were too big, any ideas on other tools I could use for differential expression analysis of such a dataset?

Thanks in advance!

Roger

My code:

#My data matrix looks something like this: 
data_norm[1:5, 1:5]

#This is my n size:
table(metadata_filtered$Fiber_type)

#First I created my factor vector with 5 levels corresponding to my 5 groups:
vector_factor_fiber_type <- factor(metadata_filtered$Fiber_type, levels = c("Type 1", "Hybrid 1/2A", "Type 2A", "Hybrid 2A/2X", "Type 2X"))

#Then I create a design matrix of 1s and 0s.
matrix_design_fiber_type <- model.matrix(~0+vector_factor_fiber_type)

#Changing the column names to be supported by Limma.
colnames(matrix_design_fiber_type) <- c("Type_1", "Hybrid_1_2A", "Type_2A", "Hybrid_2A_2X", "Type_2X")

#First fit using the design matrix.
fit_fiber_type <- lmFit(object = data_norm, 
                        design = matrix_design_fiber_type)

#I created a contrast matrix with all possible comparisons and defined the levels from my design matrix.
matrix_contrast_fiber_type <- makeContrasts(a = Type_1-Type_2A,
                                 b = Type_2A-Type_2X,
                                 c = Type_1-Type_2X,
                                 d = Type_1-Hybrid_1_2A,
                                 e = Type_1-Hybrid_2A_2X,
                                 f = Hybrid_1_2A-Type_2A,
                                 g = Type_2A-Hybrid_2A_2X,
                                 h = Hybrid_1_2A-Type_2X,
                                 i = Hybrid_2A_2X-Type_2X,
                                 j = Hybrid_1_2A-Hybrid_2A_2X,
                                 levels=matrix_design_fiber_type)

#Second fit using the contrast matrix.
fit2_fiber_type <- contrasts.fit(fit = fit_fiber_type, 
                                 contrasts = matrix_contrast_fiber_type)

#Running eBayes on my fit.
fit2_fiber_type <- limma::eBayes(fit2_fiber_type, trend=TRUE, robust=TRUE)

#Using top table to check the top signifficantly different genes from first comparison:
topTable(fit2_fiber_type, coef="a", adjust="BH", number = 20)

#As you see the P-values are completely off and do not make sense, in fact this is the number of signifficantly different proteins using this analysis:
colSums(abs(decideTests(fit2_fiber_type)))

#When I plot the mean of genes between two groups, the linear model seems to be working:
plot(rowMeans(data_norm[, metadata_filtered$Fiber_type == "Type 1"], na.rm = TRUE),
rowMeans(data_norm[, metadata_filtered$Fiber_type == "Type 2A"], na.rm = TRUE))

![Plotting the mean of genes for two groups][1]

sessionInfo( )

Results of running this code:


> #My data matrix looks something like this: 
> data_norm[1:5, 1:5]
          FOR2_fibNumber90 FOR9_fibNumber118 FOR4_fibNumber31
IGKV3-7           12.30317                NA               NA
IGKV3D-11         11.26052                NA               NA
ESYT2             11.71254           8.97330         12.14731
ILVBL                   NA                NA         12.68877
FSD2              12.87012          13.35789         12.98480
          FOR9_fibNumber200 FOR10_fibNumber77
IGKV3-7           13.883571          12.01044
IGKV3D-11         14.443226          12.86361
ESYT2             11.411228          11.72629
ILVBL              9.452942          12.40145
FSD2              13.630399          13.09411
> 
> #This is my n size:
> table(metadata_filtered$Fiber_type)

 Hybrid 1/2A Hybrid 2A/2X       Type 1      Type 2A      Type 2X 
          78           90          371          469           16 
> 
> #First I created my factor vector with 5 levels corresponding to my 5 groups:
> vector_factor_fiber_type <- factor(metadata_filtered$Fiber_type, levels = c("Type 1", "Hybrid 1/2A", "Type 2A", "Hybrid 2A/2X", "Type 2X"))
> 
> #Then I create a design matrix of 1s and 0s.
> matrix_design_fiber_type <- model.matrix(~0+vector_factor_fiber_type)
> 
> #Changing the column names to be supported by Limma.
> colnames(matrix_design_fiber_type) <- c("Type_1", "Hybrid_1_2A", "Type_2A", "Hybrid_2A_2X", "Type_2X")
> 
> #First fit using the design matrix.
> fit_fiber_type <- lmFit(object = data_norm, 
+                         design = matrix_design_fiber_type)
> 
> #I created a contrast matrix with all possible comparisons and defined the levels from my design matrix.
> matrix_contrast_fiber_type <- makeContrasts(a = Type_1-Type_2A,
+                                             b = Type_2A-Type_2X,
+                                             c = Type_1-Type_2X,
+                                             d = Type_1-Hybrid_1_2A,
+                                             e = Type_1-Hybrid_2A_2X,
+                                             f = Hybrid_1_2A-Type_2A,
+                                             g = Type_2A-Hybrid_2A_2X,
+                                             h = Hybrid_1_2A-Type_2X,
+                                             i = Hybrid_2A_2X-Type_2X,
+                                             j = Hybrid_1_2A-Hybrid_2A_2X,
+                                             levels=matrix_design_fiber_type)
> 
> #Second fit using the contrast matrix.
> fit2_fiber_type <- contrasts.fit(fit = fit_fiber_type, 
+                                  contrasts = matrix_contrast_fiber_type)
> 
> #Running eBayes on my fit.
> fit2_fiber_type <- limma::eBayes(fit2_fiber_type, trend=TRUE, robust=TRUE)
> 
> #Using top table to check the top signifficantly different genes from first comparison:
> topTable(fit2_fiber_type, coef="a", adjust="BH", number = 20)
           logFC  AveExpr         t       P.Value     adj.P.Val         B
TPM3    4.410328 17.94829  91.22853  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00 1124.0425
MYH7    3.317546 21.17579  82.59094  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00 1034.4054
ATP2A2  4.428647 15.21101  82.35313  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00 1022.7663
TNNT1   5.624232 16.99821  80.73556  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  994.8489
MYH2   -5.568047 20.21235 -77.10580  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  972.7754
MYBPC2 -4.446611 17.59789 -67.77104  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  838.7414
TNNC1   5.071321 16.58750  64.21913  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  799.1449
MYL3    5.657620 19.26718  62.66715  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  797.8367
MYLPF  -4.523424 18.82686 -62.23455  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  791.8598
TNNI1   5.717911 17.93332  61.36695  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  774.4269
TNNC2  -4.392147 17.32716 -61.05789  0.000000e+00  0.000000e+00  753.4938
TNNT3  -3.418994 19.83965 -55.74547 2.100587e-312 2.912814e-310  705.6579
TNNI2  -4.616737 17.80521 -56.14805 6.617481e-310 8.470376e-308  699.9382
MYL2    4.551580 18.79123  50.33117 5.560550e-279 6.609111e-277  628.7131
DPYSL3  1.917872 13.39997  50.09703 9.315113e-272 1.033357e-269  612.1222
AK1    -1.317138 19.23314 -48.97063 1.293570e-270 1.345313e-268  609.4496
ATP2A1 -1.630960 19.29170 -46.62393 1.590511e-255 1.556830e-253  574.7092
MYL6B   3.653388 14.78789  46.08069 8.817276e-252 8.151082e-250  566.0914
PHKA1  -1.069066 14.57353 -44.66545 1.015248e-242 8.891437e-241  545.2288
PHKB   -1.144642 14.16812 -43.21865 4.667290e-233 3.883185e-231  522.9846
> 
> #As you see the P-values are completely off and do not make sense, in fact this is the number of signifficantly different proteins using this analysis:
> colSums(abs(decideTests(fit2_fiber_type)))
   a    b    c    d    e    f    g    h    i    j 
1210  439  683  701 1122  150  835  383   11  662 
> 
> #When I plot the mean of genes between two groups, the linear model seems to be working:
> plot(rowMeans(data_norm[, metadata_filtered$Fiber_type == "Type 1"], na.rm = TRUE),
+      rowMeans(data_norm[, metadata_filtered$Fiber_type == "Type 2A"], na.rm = TRUE))
> 
> 
> sessionInfo()
R version 4.1.2 (2021-11-01)
Platform: x86_64-w64-mingw32/x64 (64-bit)
Running under: Windows 10 x64 (build 19044)

Matrix products: default

locale:
[1] LC_COLLATE=English_United Kingdom.1252 
[2] LC_CTYPE=English_United Kingdom.1252   
[3] LC_MONETARY=English_United Kingdom.1252
[4] LC_NUMERIC=C                           
[5] LC_TIME=English_United Kingdom.1252    

attached base packages:
[1] grid      stats4    stats     graphics  grDevices utils     datasets 
[8] methods   base     

other attached packages:
 [1] RobNorm_0.1.0         VIM_6.1.1             colorspace_2.0-3     
 [4] clusterProfiler_4.2.2 data.table_1.14.2     forcats_0.5.1        
 [7] stringr_1.4.0         dplyr_1.0.8           purrr_0.3.4          
[10] readr_2.1.2           tidyr_1.2.0           tibble_3.1.6         
[13] tidyverse_1.3.1       GO.db_3.14.0          org.Hs.eg.db_3.14.0  
[16] AnnotationDbi_1.56.2  IRanges_2.28.0        DT_0.21              
[19] plotly_4.10.0         MSnbase_2.20.4        ProtGenerics_1.26.0  
[22] S4Vectors_0.32.3      mzR_2.28.0            Rcpp_1.0.8           
[25] Biobase_2.54.0        BiocGenerics_0.40.0   PhosR_1.4.0          
[28] proBatch_1.10.0       factoextra_1.0.7      ggplot2_3.3.5        
[31] umap_0.2.7.0          limma_3.50.1         

#More packages loaded  but no more space allowed when posting, please ask in case of doubt
limma Proteomics • 111 views
ADD COMMENT
2
Entering edit mode
@james-w-macdonald-5106
Last seen 2 days ago
United States

The p-values look fine, given how massive those t-statistics are. This is a common effect of having large N and has nothing to do with limma.

The denominator of your t-statistic is the standard error of the coefficient (the log fold change in this case), and is computed as the estimated standard deviation divided by root N. If your N is large (somewhere over 800), your estimated standard error is going to be very small, and a large log fold change divided by a very small estimated standard error will be a very large t-statistic.

The p-value for a t-statistic of 91, with like 800 degrees of freedom is going to be essentially zero.

> pt(91.2, 800, lower.tail = FALSE)
[1] 0

Which is what you are getting. You would probably want to use treat in this situation, perhaps with a relatively large fold change like 0.585 (log2(1.5)), because you will be picking up changes that are likely to be statistically significant, but perhaps not biologically relevant.

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