Background: Transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes generally operates at the level of individual genes. Regulation of sets of adjacent genes by mechanisms operating at the level of chromosomal domains has been demonstrated in a number of cases, but the fraction of genes in the genome subject to regulation at this level is unknown.
Results: Drosophila gene-expression profiles that were determined from over 80 experimental conditions using high-density oligonucleotide microarrays were searched for groups of adjacent genes that show similar expression profiles. We found about 200 groups of adjacent and similarly expressed genes, each having between 10 and 30 members; together these groups account for over 20% of assayed genes. Each group covers between 20 and 200 kilobase pairs of genomic sequence, with a mean group size of about 100 kilobase pairs. Groups do not appear to show any correlation with polytene banding patterns or other known chromosomal structures, nor were genes within groups functionally related to one another.
Conclusions: Groups of adjacent and co-regulated genes that are not otherwise functionally related in any obvious way can be identified by expression profiling in Drosophila. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is not yet known.