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Functional clustering and lineage markers: Insights into cellular differentiation and gene function from large-scale microarray studies of purified primary cell populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Very large microarray datasets showing gene expression across multiple tissues and cell populations provide a window on the transcriptional networks that underpin the differences in functional activity between biological systems. Clusters of co-expressed genes provide lineage markers, candidate regulators of cell function and, by applying the principle of guilt by association, candidate functions for genes of currently unknown function. We have analysed a dataset comprising pure cell populations from hemopoietic and non-hemopoietic cell types (http://biogps.gnf.org). Using a novel network visualisation and clustering approach, we demonstrate that it is possible to identify very tight expression signatures associated specifically with embryonic stem cells, mesenchymal cells and hematopoietic lineages. Selected examples validate the prediction that gene function can be inferred by co-expression. One expression cluster was enriched in phagocytes, which, alongside endosome-lysosome constituents, contains genes that may make up a 'pathway' for phagocyte differentiation. Promoters of these genes are enriched for binding sites for the ETS/PU.1 and MITF families. Another cluster was associated with the production of a specific extracellular matrix, with high levels of gene expression shared by cells of mesenchymal origin (fibroblasts, adipocytes, osteoblasts and myoblasts). We discuss the limitations placed upon such data by the presence of alternative promoters with distinct tissue specificity within many protein-coding genes.

    Research areas

  • Animals, Cell Lineage, Cluster Analysis, Data Collection, Embryonic Stem Cells, Gene Expression Profiling, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Mice, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Stem Cells, Tissue Distribution

ID: 1449672