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Open Access Methodology article

Modelling the correlation between the activities of adjacent genes in drosophila

Helene H Thygesen* and Aeilko H Zwinderman

Author Affiliations

Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Academisch Medisch Centrum, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1100 DD Amsterdam, Netherlands

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BMC Bioinformatics 2005, 6:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-10

Published: 19 January 2005



Correlation between the expression levels of genes which are located close to each other on the genome has been found in various organisms, including yeast, drosophila and humans. Since such a correlation could be explained by several biochemical, evolutionary, genetic and technological factors, there is a need for statistical models that correspond to specific biological models for the correlation structure.


We modelled the pairwise correlation between the expressions of the genes in a Drosophila microarray experiment as a normal mixture under Fisher's z-transform, and fitted the model to the correlations of expressions of adjacent as well as non-adjacent genes. We also analyzed simulated data for comparison. The model provided a good fit to the data. Further, correlation between the activities of two genes could, in most cases, be attributed to either of two factors: the two genes both being active in the same age group (adult or embryo), or the two genes being in proximity of each other on the chromosome. The interaction between these two factors was weak.


Correlation between the activities of adjacent genes is higher than between non-adjacent genes. In the data we analyzed, this appeared, for the most part, to be a constant effect that applied to all pairs of adjacent genes.