GeneGini: a simple method for describing how cells work


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For more than 20 years, scientists have characterised the behaviour of cells in different circumstances by analysing the expression of their genes. This is typically done at the level of gene transcripts, and their collective expression (the 'expression profile') is known as the transcriptome. These methods are very powerful, but generate massive amounts of data (mammalian cells typically express some 20,000 gene transcripts). What is needed is a method that provides a simple summary of such data. A team from Manchester, together with colleagues from Sweden, has now come up with one.

Douglas Kell, Philip Day and colleagues at the University of Manchester, working in collaboration with Emma Lundberg of the Science for Life Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Solna, in Sweden, have now used this Gini coefficient to characterise the expression of genes in 59 tissues and 56 cell lines, with two major and striking results.

Professor Douglas Kell, Research Chair in Bioanalytical Science at The University of Manchester, said: "The Gini Index is a brilliant method for summarising expression profiles, and has simultaneously highlighted both a load of new housekeeping genes and the important biology of pharmaceutical drug transporters. We are sure that it will now be very widely used. Overall, hijacking this method from economics for use in biology has proved highly beneficial, underlining the importance of interdisciplinary projects of this type."

Professor Emma Lundberg, a leader of the Human Protein Atlas program at the Science for Life Laboratory said "The Gini Index is an easy way to summarize gene expression profiles and their variability across a multitude of samples. This may be an important measure when trying to map all human cell types and their unique molecular signatures".

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