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Open Access Research article

Locational distribution of gene functional classes in Arabidopsis thaliana

Michael C Riley, Amanda Clare and Ross D King*

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Penglais, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DB, Wales, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:112  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-112

Published: 30 March 2007

Abstract

Background

We are interested in understanding the locational distribution of genes and their functions in genomes, as this distribution has both functional and evolutionary significance. Gene locational distribution is known to be affected by various evolutionary processes, with tandem duplication thought to be the main process producing clustering of homologous sequences. Recent research has found clustering of protein structural families in the human genome, even when genes identified as tandem duplicates have been removed from the data. However, this previous research was hindered as they were unable to analyse small sample sizes. This is a challenge for bioinformatics as more specific functional classes have fewer examples and conventional statistical analyses of these small data sets often produces unsatisfactory results.

Results

We have developed a novel bioinformatics method based on Monte Carlo methods and Greenwood's spacing statistic for the computational analysis of the distribution of individual functional classes of genes (from GO). We used this to make the first comprehensive statistical analysis of the relationship between gene functional class and location on a genome. Analysis of the distribution of all genes except tandem duplicates on the five chromosomes of A. thaliana reveals that the distribution on chromosomes I, II, IV and V is clustered at P = 0.001. Many functional classes are clustered, with the degree of clustering within an individual class generally consistent across all five chromosomes. A novel and surprising result was that the locational distribution of some functional classes were significantly more evenly spaced than would be expected by chance.

Conclusion

Analysis of the A. thaliana genome reveals evidence of unexplained order in the locational distribution of genes. The same general analysis method can be applied to any genome, and indeed any sequential data involving classes.