Correspondence should be addressed to:
Wim De Mulder
Systems Research Group, Ghent University, Zwijnaarde, 9052, Belgium
Clustering is an important approach in the analysis of biological data, and often a first step to identify interesting patterns of coexpression in gene expression data. Because of the high complexity and diversity of gene expression data, many genes cannot be easily assigned to a cluster, but even if the dissimilarity of these genes with all other gene groups is large, they will finally be forced to become member of a cluster. In this paper we show how to detect such elements, called unstable elements. We have developed an approach for iterative clustering algorithms in which unstable elements are deleted, making the iterative algorithm less dependent on initial centers. Although the approach is unsupervised, it is less likely that the clusters into which the reduced data set is subdivided contain false positives. This clustering yields a more differentiated approach for biological data, since the cluster analysis is divided into two parts: the pruned data set is divided into highly consistent clusters in an unsupervised way and the removed, unstable elements for which no meaningful cluster exists in unsupervised terms can be given a cluster with the use of biological knowledge and information about the likelihood of cluster membership. We illustrate our framework on both an artificial and real biological data set.