JOURNAL ARTICLE

Gene coexpression network analysis as a source of functional annotation for rice genes

Kevin L Childs, Rebecca M Davidson, C Robin Buell
PloS One 2011, 6 (7): e22196
21799793
With the existence of large publicly available plant gene expression data sets, many groups have undertaken data analyses to construct gene coexpression networks and functionally annotate genes. Often, a large compendium of unrelated or condition-independent expression data is used to construct gene networks. Condition-dependent expression experiments consisting of well-defined conditions/treatments have also been used to create coexpression networks to help examine particular biological processes. Gene networks derived from either condition-dependent or condition-independent data can be difficult to interpret if a large number of genes and connections are present. However, algorithms exist to identify modules of highly connected and biologically relevant genes within coexpression networks. In this study, we have used publicly available rice (Oryza sativa) gene expression data to create gene coexpression networks using both condition-dependent and condition-independent data and have identified gene modules within these networks using the Weighted Gene Coexpression Network Analysis method. We compared the number of genes assigned to modules and the biological interpretability of gene coexpression modules to assess the utility of condition-dependent and condition-independent gene coexpression networks. For the purpose of providing functional annotation to rice genes, we found that gene modules identified by coexpression analysis of condition-dependent gene expression experiments to be more useful than gene modules identified by analysis of a condition-independent data set. We have incorporated our results into the MSU Rice Genome Annotation Project database as additional expression-based annotation for 13,537 genes, 2,980 of which lack a functional annotation description. These results provide two new types of functional annotation for our database. Genes in modules are now associated with groups of genes that constitute a collective functional annotation of those modules. Additionally, the expression patterns of genes across the treatments/conditions of an expression experiment comprise a second form of useful annotation.

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