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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Mar;23(3):530-40. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Evolutionary conservation of expression profiles between human and mouse orthologous genes.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, USA.


Mouse models are often used to study human genes because it is believed that the expression and function are similar for the majority of orthologous genes between the two species. However, recent comparisons of microarray data from thousands of orthologous human and mouse genes suggested rapid evolution of gene expression profiles under minimal or no selective constraint. These findings appear to contradict non-array-based observations from many individual genes and imply the uselessness of mouse models for studying human genes. Because absolute levels of gene expression are not comparable between species when the data are generated by species-specific microarrays, use of relative mRNA abundance among tissues (RA) is preferred to that of absolute expression signals. We thus reanalyze human and mouse genome-wide gene expression data generated by oligonucleotide microarrays. We show that the mean correlation coefficient among expression profiles detected by different probe sets of the same gene is only 0.38 for humans and 0.28 for mice, indicating that current measures of expression divergence are flawed because the large estimation error (discrepancy in expression signal detected by different probe sets of the same gene) is mistakenly included in the between-species divergence. When this error is subtracted, 84% of human-mouse orthologous gene pairs show significantly lower expression divergence than that of random gene pairs. In contrast to a previous finding, but consistent with the common sense, expression profiles of orthologous tissues between species are more similar to each other than to those of nonorthologous tissues. Furthermore, the evolutionary rate of expression divergence and that of coding sequence divergence are found to be weakly, but significantly positively correlated, when RA and the Euclidean distance are used to measure expression-profile divergence. These results highlight the importance of proper consideration of various estimation errors in comparing the microarray data between species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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