Monthly Archives: March 2012

R gotcha for the week

I use the biomaRt package from Bioconductor in almost every R session. So I thought I’d load the library and set up a mart instance in my ~/.Rprofile:

library(biomaRt)
mart.hs <- useMart(biomart = "ensembl", dataset = "hsapiens_gene_ensembl")

On starting R, I was somewhat perplexed to see this error message:

Error in bmVersion(mart, verbose = verbose) : 
  could not find function "read.table"

Twitter to the rescue. @hadleywickham told me to load utils first and @vsbuffalo explained that normally, .Rprofile is read before the utils package is loaded. Seems rather odd to me; I’d have thought that biomaRt should load utils if required, but there you go.

So this works in ~/.Rprofile:

library(utils)
library(biomaRt)
mart.hs <- useMart(biomart = "ensembl", dataset = "hsapiens_gene_ensembl")

Simple plots reveal interesting artifacts

I’ve recently been working with methylation data; specifically, from the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 bead chip. It’s a rather complex array which uses two types of probes to determine the methylation state of DNA at ~ 485 000 sites in the genome.

The Bioconductor project has risen to the challenge with a (somewhat bewildering) variety of packages to analyse data from this chip. I’ve used lumi, methylumi and minfi, but will focus here on just the latter.

Update: a related post from Oliver Hofmann (@fiamh).
Read the rest…