Background: Microarray technology allows simultaneous measurement of thousands of genes in a single experiment. This is a potentially useful tool for evaluating co-expression of genes and extraction of useful functional and chromosomal structural information about genes. Results: In this work we studied the association between the co-expression of genes, their location on the chromosome and their location on the microarray slides by analyzing a number of eukaryotic expression datasets, derived from the S. cerevisiae, C. elegans, and D. melanogaster. We find that in several different yeast microarray experiments the distribution of the number of gene pairs with correlated expression profiles as a function of chromosomal spacing is peaked at short separations and has two superimposed periodicities. The longer periodicity has a spacing of 22 genes (∼42 Kb), and the shorter periodicity is 2 genes (∼4 Kb). Conclusion: The relative positioning of DNA probes on microarray slides and source plates introduces subtle but significant correlations between pairs of genes. Careful consideration of this spatial artifact is important for analysis of microarray expression data. It is particularly relevant to recent microarray analyses that suggest that co-expressed genes cluster along chromosomes or are spaced by multiples of a fixed number of genes along the chromosome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas