We developed a method for systematically comparing gene expression patterns across organisms using genome-wide comparative analysis of DNA microarray experiments. We identified analogous gene expression programs comprising shared patterns of regulation across orthologous genes. Biological features of these patterns could be identified as highly conserved subpatterns that correspond to Gene Ontology categories. Here, we demonstrate these methods by analyzing a specific biological process, aging, and show that similar analysis can be applied to a range of biological processes. We found that two highly diverged animals, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, implement a shared adult-onset expression program of genes involved in mitochondrial metabolism, DNA repair, catabolism, peptidolysis and cellular transport. Most of these changes were implemented early in adulthood. Using this approach to search databases of gene expression data, we found conserved transcriptional signatures in larval development, embryogenesis, gametogenesis and MRNA degradation.
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