A yeast's eye view of mammalian reproduction: cross-species gene co-expression in meiotic prophase
1 School of Molecular Biosciences, Washington State University, PO Box 647520, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
2 Center for Reproductive Biology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
3 Department of Statistics, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4:125 doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-125Published: 6 September 2010
Meiotic prophase is a critical stage in sexual reproduction. Aberrant chromosome recombination during this stage is a leading cause of human miscarriages and birth defects. However, due to the experimental intractability of mammalian gonads, only a very limited number of meiotic genes have been characterized. Here we aim to identify novel meiotic genes important in human reproduction through computational mining of cross-species and cross-sex time-series expression data from budding yeast, mouse postnatal testis, mouse embryonic ovary, and human fetal ovary.
Orthologous gene pairs were ranked by order statistics according to their co-expression profiles across species, allowing us to infer conserved meiotic genes despite obvious differences in cellular synchronicity and composition in organisms. We demonstrated that conserved co-expression networks could successfully recover known meiotic genes, including homologous recombination genes, chromatin cohesion genes, and genes regulating meiotic entry. We also showed that conserved co-expression pairs exhibit functional connections, as evidenced by the annotation similarity in Gene Ontology and overlap with physical interactions. More importantly, we predicted six new meiotic genes through their co-expression linkages with known meiotic genes, and subsequently used the genetically more amenable yeast system for experimental validation. The deletion mutants of all six genes showed sporulation defects, equivalent to a 100% validation rate.
We identified evolutionarily conserved gene modules in meiotic prophase by integrating cross-species and cross-sex expression profiles from budding yeast, mouse, and human. Our co-expression linkage analyses confirmed known meiotic genes and identified several novel genes that might be critical players in meiosis in multiple species. These results demonstrate that our approach is highly efficient to discover evolutionarily conserved novel meiotic genes, and yeast can serve as a valuable model system for investigating mammalian meiotic prophase.