Adversarial Deconfounding Autoencoder for Learning Robust Gene Expression Embeddings [article]

Ayse B. Dincer, Joseph D. Janizek, Su-In Lee
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Motivation: Increasing number of gene expression profiles has enabled the use of complex models, such as deep unsupervised neural networks, to extract a latent space from these profiles. However, expression profiles, especially when collected in large numbers, inherently contain variations introduced by technical artifacts (e.g., batch effects) and uninteresting biological variables (e.g., age) in addition to the true signals of interest. These sources of variations, called confounders, produce
more » ... embeddings that fail to transfer to different domains, i.e., an embedding learned from one dataset with a specific confounder distribution does not generalize to different distributions. To remedy this problem, we attempt to disentangle confounders from true signals to generate biologically informative embeddings. Results: In this paper, we introduce the AD-AE (Adversarial Deconfounding AutoEncoder) approach to deconfounding gene expression latent spaces. The AD-AE model consists of two neural networks: (i) an autoencoder to generate an embedding that can reconstruct original measurements, and (ii) an adversary trained to predict the confounder from that embedding. We jointly train the networks to generate embeddings that can encode as much information as possible without encoding any confounding signal. By applying AD-AE to two distinct gene expression datasets, we show that our model can (1) generate embeddings that do not encode confounder information, (2) conserve the biological signals present in the original space, and (3) generalize successfully across different confounder domains. We demonstrate that AD-AE outperforms standard autoencoder and other deconfounding approaches. Availability: Our code and data are available at Contact:;
doi:10.1101/2020.04.28.065052 fatcat:yojdc3lp6jcf3bguv7g2zjeg2u