Background: Human myelopoiesis is an exciting biological model for cellular differentiation since it represents a plastic process where multipotent stem cells gradually limit their differentiation potential, generating different precursor cells which finally evolve into distinct terminally differentiated cells. This study aimed at investigating the genomic expression during myeloid differentiation through a computational approach that integrates gene expression profiles with functional information and genome organization.
Results: Gene expression data from 24 experiments for 8 different cell types of the human myelopoietic lineage were used to generate an integrated myelopoiesis dataset of 9,425 genes, each reliably associated to a unique genomic position and chromosomal coordinate. Lists of genes constitutively expressed or silent during myelopoiesis and of genes differentially expressed in commitment phase of myelopoiesis were first identified using a classical data analysis procedure. Then, the genomic distribution of myelopoiesis genes was investigated integrating transcriptional and functional characteristics of genes. This approach allowed identifying specific chromosomal regions significantly highly or weakly expressed, and clusters of differentially expressed genes and of transcripts related to specific functional modules.
Conclusion: The analysis of genomic expression during human myelopoiesis using an integrative computational approach allowed discovering important relationships between genomic position, biological function and expression patterns and highlighting chromatin domains, including genes with coordinated expression and lineage-specific functions.