Segerman B, Jansson S, Karlsson J
Characterization of genes with tissue-specific differential expression patterns in Populus
Tree Genetics & Genomes: 2007, on line publication

Like many plants, Populus has an evolutionary history in which several, both recent and more ancient, genome duplication events have occurred and, therefore, constitutes an excellent model system for studying the functional evolution of genes. In the present study, we have focused on the properties of genes with tissue-specific differential expression patterns in poplar. We identified the genes by analyzing digital expression profiles derived by mapping 90,000+ expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from 18 sources to the predicted genes of Populus. Our sequence analysis suggests that tissue-specific differentially expressed genes have less diverged paralogs than average, indicating that gene duplication events is an important event in the pathway leading to this type of expression pattern. The functional analysis showed that genes coding for proteins involved in processes of functional importance for the specific tissue(s) in which they are expressed and genes coding for regulatory or responsive proteins are most common among the differentially expressed genes, demonstrating that the expression differentiation process is under strong selective pressure. Thus, our data supports a model where gene duplication followed by gene specialization or expansion of the regulatory and responsive networks leads to tissue-specific differential expression patterns. We have also searched for clustering of genes with similar expression pattern into gene-expression neighborhoods within the Populus genome. However, we could not detect any major clustering among the analyzed genes with highly specific expression patterns.

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