Journal Article

A Universal Nonmonotonic Relationship between Gene Compactness and Expression Levels in Multicellular Eukaryotes

Liran Carmel and Eugene V. Koonin

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 1, issue , pages 382-390
Published in print January 2009 |
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evp038

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Analysis of gene architecture and expression levels of four organisms, Homo sapiens, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, and Arabidopsis thaliana, reveals a surprising, nonmonotonic, universal relationship between expression level and gene compactness. With increasing expression level, the genes tend at first to become longer but, from a certain level of expression, they become more and more compact, resulting in an approximate bell-shaped dependence. There are two leading hypotheses to explain the compactness of highly expressed genes. The selection hypothesis predicts that gene compactness is predominantly driven by the level of expression, whereas the genomic design hypothesis predicts that expression breadth across tissues is the driving force. We observed the connection between gene expression breadth in humans and gene compactness to be significantly weaker than the connection between expression level and compactness, a result that is compatible with the selection hypothesis but not the genome design hypothesis. The initial gene elongation with increasing expression level could be explained, at least in part, by accumulation of regulatory elements enhancing expression, in particular, in introns. This explanation is compatible with the observed positive correlation between intron density and expression level of a gene. Conversely, the trend toward increasing compactness for highly expressed genes could be caused by selection for minimization of energy and time expenditure during transcription and splicing and for increased fidelity of transcription, splicing, and/or translation that is likely to be particularly critical for highly expressed genes. Regardless of the exact nature of the forces that shape the gene architecture, we present evidence that, at least, in animals, coding and noncoding parts of genes show similar architectonic trends.

Keywords: eukaryotic gene structure; eukaryotic gene architecture; selection on gene compactness; genomic design; intron functionality; intron density

Journal Article.  5688 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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