Simpson's paradox in gene regulation

May 22, 2017
Simpson's paradox in gene regulation

The identity of human tissues depends on their protein levels. Are tissue protein levels set largely by corresponding mRNA levels or by other (post-transcriptional) regulatory mechanisms? We revisit this question based on statistical analysis of mRNA and protein levels measured across human tissues. We find that for any one gene, its protein levels across tissues are poorly predicted by its mRNA levels, suggesting tissue-specific post-transcriptional regulation. In contrast, the overall protein levels are well predicted by scaled mRNA levels. We show how these speciously contradictory findings are consistent with each other and represent the two sides of Simpson’s paradox.

Read a Highlight in the Scientist: How Statistics Weakened mRNA’s Predictive Power