Microarray technology can be used to assess simultaneously global changes in expression of mRNA or genomic DNA copy number among thousands of genes in different biological states. In many cases, it is desirable to determine if altered patterns of gene expression correlate with chromosomal abnormalities or assess expression of genes that are contiguous in the genome. We describe a method, differential gene locus mapping (DIGMAP), which aligns the known chromosomal location of a gene to its expression value deduced by microarray analysis. The method partitions microarray data into subsets by chromosomal location for each gene interrogated by an array. Microarray data in an individual subset can then be clustered by physical location of genes at a subchromosomal level based upon ordered alignment in genome sequence. A graphical display is generated by representing each genomic locus with a colored cell that quantitatively reflects its differential expression value. The clustered patterns can be viewed and compared based on their expression signatures as defined by differential values between control and experimental samples. In this study, DIGMAP was tested using previously published studies of breast cancer analyzed by comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and prostate cancer gene expression profiles assessed by cDNA microarray experiments. Analysis of the breast cancer CGH data demonstrated the ability of DIGMAP to deduce gene amplifications and deletions. Application of the DIGMAP method to the prostate data revealed several carcinoma-related loci, including one at 16q13 with marked differential expression encompassing 19 known genes including 9 encoding metallothionein proteins. We conclude that DIGMAP is a powerful computational tool enabling the coupled analysis of microarray data with genome location.
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