Phylogenetic analysis of gene expression
Phylogenetic analyses of gene expression have great potential for addressing a wide range of questions. These analyses will, for example, identify genes that have evolutionary shifts in expression that are correlated with evolutionary changes in morphological, physiological, and developmental characters of interest. This will provide entirely new opportunities to identify genes related to particular phenotypes. There are, however, three key challenges that must be addressed for such studies to realize their potential. First, gene expression data must be measured from multiple species, some of which may be ﬁeld collected, and parameterized in such a way that they can be compared across species. Second, it will be necessary to develop phylogenetic comparative methods suitable for large multidimensional datasets. In most phylogenetic comparative studies to date, the number n of independent observations (independent contrasts) has been greater than the number p of variables (characters). The behavior of comparative methods for these classic n > p problems are now well understood under a wide variety of conditions. In gene expression studies, and studies based on other high-throughput tools, the number n of samples is dwarfed by the number p of variables. The estimated covariance matrices will be singular, complicating their analysis and interpretation, and prone to spurious results. Third, new approaches are needed to investigate the expression of the many genes whose phylogenies are not congruent with species phylogenies due to gene loss, gene duplication, and incomplete lineage sorting. Here we outline general project design considerations for phylogenetic analyses of gene expression, and suggest solutions to these three categories of challenges. These topics are relevant to high-throughput phenotypic data well beyond gene expression.
Casey W. Dunn, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Xi Luo, Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University. email@example.com
Zhijin Wu, Associate Professor, Public Health-Biostatistics, Brown University. firstname.lastname@example.org