Background: The use of microarray technology for describing changes in mRNA expression to address ecological and evolutionary questions is becoming increasingly popular. Since three-spine stickleback are an important ecological and evolutionary model-species as well as an emerging model for eco-toxicology, the ability to have a functional and flexible microarray platform for transcriptome studies will greatly enhance the research potential in these areas.
Results: We designed 43,392 unique oligonucleotide probes representing 19,274 genes (93% of the estimated total gene number), and tested the hybridization performance of both DNA and RNA from different populations to determine the efficacy of probe design for transcriptome analysis using the Agilent array platform. The majority of probes were functional as evidenced by the DNA hybridization success, and 30,946 probes (14,615 genes) had a signal that was significantly above background for RNA isolated from liver tissue. Genes identified as being expressed in liver tissue were grouped into functional categories for each of the three Gene Ontology groups: biological process, molecular function, and cellular component. As expected, the highest proportions of functional categories belonged to those associated with metabolic functions: metabolic process, binding, catabolism, and organelles.
Conclusion: The probe and microarray design presented here provides an important step facilitating transcriptomics research for this important research organism by providing a set of over 43,000 probes whose hybridization success and specificity to liver expression has been demonstrated. Probes can easily be added or removed from the current design to tailor the array to specific experiments and additional flexibility lies in the ability to perform either one-color or two-color hybridizations.