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Do genes that occupy a similar locus on the genome have correlated function, specifically in human beings? It is my understanding that adjacent genes are inherited together, and so location plays a role there. However it terms of function, I don't know to what extent location plays a role. Furthermore, if say two adjacent genes have the same expression, does this necessarily mean that their function is correlated, or is that interpretation stretch?

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Trivial and maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek comment: that cannot be true, otherwise any gene in the genome would be correlated to its neighbour, hence all of the genes would be correlated to each other :) –  nico Jun 22 '12 at 6:45
@nico But it is true to some extent, at least when looking at co-regulation. –  Konrad Rudolph Jun 22 '12 at 9:44
That only says they can't be perfectly corollated. Otherwise corollation would drop off exponentially with distance. –  Noah Snyder Jun 22 '12 at 16:11
@Konrad Rudolph: I know, I was just joking. Anyway distance on genomic map does not mean distance in space... –  nico Jun 22 '12 at 17:05
You might look into the homeotic genes. They are involved in patterning embryos during development. Interestingly, in vertebrates especially, their pattern of expression on the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo (and the proximal-distal axis of the developing limb) is the same as their order on the chromosome. They are said to be colinear, though no one really knows why. –  canadianer Jan 17 at 0:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In bacteria, this is often true. This is because more than one gene is often transcribed onto a single RNA. This grouping of genes is called an operon. It is usually true that these have a related function because they are being translated to protein in very much the same proportion - a convenient way to regulate the function as a whole.

Once you get into eukaryotes this is no longer true (except for v. rare cases most of which are viral genes), one mRNA transcript contains just one translation region. This is true even for yeast and other single celled organisms. Gene regulation can be correlated, but the relationship on the genome has little to do with it.

There is some importance to the genomic relationship of two genes because of the crossing over that occurs in meiosis, but this is more of a relationship that is important in speciation and evolution, it doesn't have any recognized importance to how the genes act within the eukaryotic cell.

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A group of tightly linked genes that are involved in similar molecular pathway are called supergenes.

For the pleasure to formulate a slight opposition to @shigeta's answer, I will give some examples of supergenes in eukaryotes.

  • In Primula, heterostyly is controlled by a supergene.
  • In Papilio memno, mimicry is controlled by a supergene.
  • In some species of ants, some social behaviour is caused by a supergene.
  • Sexual chromosomes (and this is quite common) can be considered as supergenes.

Globally speaking, every locus that is under antagonist sexual in different sex/castes/ecotype/whatever is likely to start forming a supergene as soon as another locus that has antagonist effect appears in its vicinity because the presence of two such genes on the same chromosomal region will select for arrest of recombination.

But of course, those represent exceptions (however common these exceptions might be) but in general, I don't think you should expect that adjacent genes would have similar functions.

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