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Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

Inferring gene expression dynamics via functional regression analysis

Hans-Georg Müller1, Jeng-Min Chiou2 and Xiaoyan Leng3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Statistics, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

2 Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei 115, Taiwan

3 Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Biostatistical Sciences, One Medical Center Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-60

Published: 28 January 2008



Temporal gene expression profiles characterize the time-dynamics of expression of specific genes and are increasingly collected in current gene expression experiments. In the analysis of experiments where gene expression is obtained over the life cycle, it is of interest to relate temporal patterns of gene expression associated with different developmental stages to each other to study patterns of long-term developmental gene regulation. We use tools from functional data analysis to study dynamic changes by relating temporal gene expression profiles of different developmental stages to each other.


We demonstrate that functional regression methodology can pinpoint relationships that exist between temporary gene expression profiles for different life cycle phases and incorporates dimension reduction as needed for these high-dimensional data. By applying these tools, gene expression profiles for pupa and adult phases are found to be strongly related to the profiles of the same genes obtained during the embryo phase. Moreover, one can distinguish between gene groups that exhibit relationships with positive and others with negative associations between later life and embryonal expression profiles. Specifically, we find a positive relationship in expression for muscle development related genes, and a negative relationship for strictly maternal genes for Drosophila, using temporal gene expression profiles.


Our findings point to specific reactivation patterns of gene expression during the Drosophila life cycle which differ in characteristic ways between various gene groups. Functional regression emerges as a useful tool for relating gene expression patterns from different developmental stages, and avoids the problems with large numbers of parameters and multiple testing that affect alternative approaches.