The greatest barrier to understanding how life interacts with its environment is the complexity in which biology operates. In this work, I present experimental designs, analysis methods, and visualization techniques to overcome the challenges of deciphering complex biological datasets. First, I examine an iron limitation transcriptome of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 using a new methodology. Until now, iron limitation in experiments of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 gene expression has been achieved through media chelation. Notably, chelation also reduces the bioavailability of other metals, whereas naturally occurring low iron settings likely result from a lack of iron influx and not as a result of chelation. The overall metabolic trends of previous studies are well-characterized but within those trends is significant variability in single gene expression responses. I compare previous transcriptomics analyses with our protocol that limits the addition of bioavailable iron to growth media to identify consistent gene expression signals resulting from iron limitation. Second, I describe a novel method of improving the reliability of centroid-linkage clustering results. The size and complexity of modern sequencing datasets often prohibit constructing distance matrices, which prevents the use of many common clustering algorithms. Centroid-linkage circumvents the need for a distance matrix, but has the adverse effect of producing input-order dependent results. In this chapter, I describe a method of cluster edge counting across iterated centroid-linkage results and reconstructing aggregate clusters from a ranked edge list without a distance matrix and input-order dependence. Finally, I introduce dendritic heat maps, a new figure type that visualizes heat map responses through expanding and contracting sequence clustering specificities. Heat maps are useful for comparing data across a range of possible states. However, data binning is sensitive to clustering cutoffs which are often arbitrarily introduced by researchers and can substantially change the heat map response of any single data point. With an understanding of how the architectural elements of dendrograms and heat maps affect data visualization, I have integrated their salient features to create a figure type aimed at viewing multiple levels of clustering cutoffs, allowing researchers to better understand the effects of environment on metabolism or phylogenetic lineages.
Included in this item (7)