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Open Access Research article

A critical assessment of cross-species detection of gene duplicates using comparative genomic hybridization

Heather E Machado and Suzy CP Renn*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, Reed College, Portland, OR 97202 USA

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:304  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-304

Published: 13 May 2010



Comparison of genomic DNA among closely related strains or species is a powerful approach for identifying variation in evolutionary processes. One potent source of genomic variation is gene duplication, which is prevalent among individuals and species. Array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) has been successfully utilized to detect this variation among lineages. Here, beyond the demonstration that gene duplicates among species can be quantified with aCGH, we consider the effect of sequence divergence on the ability to detect gene duplicates.


Using the X chromosome genomic content difference between male D. melanogaster and female D. yakuba and D. simulans, we describe a decrease in the ability to accurately measure genomic content (copy number) for orthologs that are only 90% identical. We demonstrate that genome characteristics (e.g. chromatin environment and non-orthologous sequence similarity) can also affect the ability to accurately measure genomic content. We describe a normalization strategy and statistical criteria to be used for the identification of gene duplicates among any species group for which an array platform is available from a closely related species.


Array CGH can be used to effectively identify gene duplication and genome content; however, certain biases are present due to sequence divergence and other genome characteristics resulting from the divergence between lineages. Highly conserved gene duplicates will be more readily recovered by aCGH. Duplicates that have been retained for a selective advantage due to directional selection acting on many loci in one or both gene copies are likely to be under-represented. The results of this study should inform the interpretation of both previously published and future work that employs this powerful technique.