Background: Computational approaches toward gene annotation are a formidable challenge, now that many genome sequences have been determined. Each gene has its own function, but complicated cellular functions are achieved by sets of genes. Therefore, sets of genes with strong functional relationships must be identified. For this purpose, the similarities of gene expression patterns and gene sequences have been separately utilized, although the combined information will provide a better solution.
Result & discussion: We propose a new method to find functional modules, by comparing gene coexpression profiles among species. A coexpression pattern is represented as a list of coexpressed genes with each guide gene. We compared two coexpression lists, one from a human guide gene and the other from a homologous mouse gene, and defined a measure to evaluate the similarity between the lists. Based on this coexpression similarity, we detected the highly conserved genes, and constructed human gene networks with conserved coexpression between human and mouse. Some of the tightly coupled genes (modules) showed clear functional enrichment, such as immune system and cell cycle, indicating that our method could identify functionally related genes without any prior knowledge. We also found a few functional modules without any annotations, which may be good candidates for novel functional modules. All of the comparisons are available at the http://v1.coxsimdb.info web database.