PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Analysis of gene expression patterns in animals
Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Department of Ecology and EvolutionBiophore, University of LausanneCH-1015 LausanneSwitzerland
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During my PhD, my aim was to provide new tools to increase our capacity to analyse gene expression patterns, and to study on a large-scale basis the evolution of gene expression in animals. Gene expression patterns (when and where a gene is expressed) are a key feature in understanding gene function, notably in development. It appears clear now that the evolution of developmental processes and of phenotypes is shaped both by evolution at the coding sequence level, and at the gene expression level.Studying gene expression evolution in animals, with complex expression patterns over tissues and developmental time, is still challenging. No tools are available to routinely compare expression patterns between different species, with precision, and on a large-scale basis. Studies on gene expression evolution are therefore performed only on small genes datasets, or using imprecise descriptions of expression patterns.The aim of my PhD was thus to develop and use novel bioinformatics resources, to study the evolution of gene expression. To this end, I developed the database Bgee (Base for Gene Expression Evolution). The approach of Bgee is to transform heterogeneous expression data (ESTs, microarrays, and in-situ hybridizations) into present/absent calls, and to annotate them to standard representations of anatomy and development of different species (anatomical ontologies). An extensive mapping between anatomies of species is then developed based on hypothesis of homology. These precise annotations to anatomies, and this extensive mapping between species, are the major assets of Bgee, and have required the involvement of many co-workers over the years. My main personal contribution is the development and the management of both the Bgee database and the web-application.Bgee is now on its ninth release, and includes an important gene expression dataset for 5 species (human, mouse, drosophila, zebrafish, Xenopus), with the most data from mouse, human and zebrafish. Using these three species, I have conducted an analysis of gene expression evolution after duplication in vertebrates.Gene duplication is thought to be a major source of novelty in evolution, and to participate to speciation. It has been suggested that the evolution of gene expression patterns might participate in the retention of duplicate genes. I performed a large-scale comparison of expression patterns of hundreds of duplicated genes to their singleton ortholog in an outgroup, including both small and large-scale duplicates, in three vertebrate species (human, mouse and zebrafish), and using highly accurate descriptions of expression patterns. My results showed unexpectedly high rates of de novo acquisition of expression domains after duplication (neofunctionalization), at least as high or higher than rates of partitioning of expression domains (subfunctionalization). I found differences in the evolution of expression of small- and large-scale duplicates, with small-scale duplicates more prone to neofunctionalization. Duplicates with neofunctionalization seemed to evolve under more relaxed selective pressure on the coding sequence. Finally, even with abundant and precise expression data, the majority fate I recovered was neither neo- nor subfunctionalization of expression domains, suggesting a major role for other mechanisms in duplicate gene retention.
evolutionary transcriptomics, gene expression pattern, evolution, ontology, Bgee,
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