Comparison of embryonic expression within multigene families using the FlyExpress discovery platform reveals more spatial than temporal divergence

Dev Dyn. 2012 Jan;241(1):150-60. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.22749. Epub 2011 Sep 29.


Background: Overlaps in spatial patterns of gene expression are frequently an initial clue to genetic interactions during embryonic development. However, manual inspection of images requires considerable time and resources impeding the discovery of important interactions because tens of thousands of images exist. The FlyExpress discovery platform was developed to facilitate data-driven comparative analysis of expression pattern images from Drosophila embryos.

Results: An image-based search of the BDGP and Fly-FISH datasets conducted in FlyExpress yields fewer but more precise results than text-based searching when the specific goal is to find genes with overlapping expression patterns. We also provide an example of a FlyExpress contribution to scientific discovery: an analysis of gene expression patterns for multigene family members revealed that spatial divergence is far more frequent than temporal divergence, especially after the maternal to zygotic transition. This discovery provides a new clue to molecular mechanisms whereby duplicated genes acquire novel functions.

Conclusions: The application of FlyExpress to understanding the process by which new genes acquire novel functions is just one of a myriad of ways in which it can contribute to our understanding of developmental and evolutionary biology. This resource has many other potential applications, limited only by the investigator's imagination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computational Biology / instrumentation
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drosophila / embryology*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Multigene Family*


  • Drosophila Proteins