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Reverse phase protein arrays (RPPA) measure the relative expression levels of a protein in many samples simultaneously. Observed signal from these arrays is a combination of true signal, additive background, and multiplicative spatial effects. Background subtraction alone is not sufficient to remove all nonbiological trends from the data. We developed a surface adjustment that uses information from positive control spots to correct for spatial trends on the array beyond additive background. This method uses a generalized additive model to estimate a smoothed surface from positive controls. When positive controls are printed in a dilution series, a nested surface adjustment performs an intensity-based correction. When applicable, surface adjustment is able to remove spatial trends and increase within slide replicate agreement better than background subtraction alone as demonstrated on two sets of arrays. This work demonstrates the importance of including positive control spots on the array.
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