Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Computational & Systems Biology)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Gene discovery and characterization is a long and labor-intensive process. Gene co-expression network analysis is a long-standing powerful approach that can strongly enrich signals within gene expression datasets to predict genes critical for many cellular functions. Leveraging this approach with a large number of transcriptome datasets does not yield a concomitant increase in network granularity. Independently generated datasets that describe gene expression in various tissues, developmental stages, times of day, and environments can carry conflicting co-expression signals. The gene expression responses of the model C3 grass Brachypodium distachyon to abiotic stress is characterized by a co-expression-based analysis, identifying 22 modules of genes, annotated with putative DNA regulatory elements and functional terms. A great deal of co-expression elasticity is found among the genes characterized therein. An algorithm, dGCNA, designed to determine statistically significant changes in gene-gene co-expression relationships is presented. The algorithm is demonstrated on the very well-characterized circadian system of Arabidopsis thaliana, and identifies potential strong signals of molecular interactions between a specific transcription factor and putative target gene loci. Lastly, this network comparison approach based on edge-wise similarities is demonstrated on many pairwise comparisons of independent microarray datasets, to demonstrate the utility of fine-grained network comparison, rather than amassing as large a dataset as possible. This approach identifies a set of 182 gene loci which are differentially expressed under drought stress, change their co-expression strongly under loss of thermocycles or high-salinity stress, and are associated with cell-cycle and DNA replication functions. This set of genes provides excellent candidates for the generation of rhythmic growth under thermocycles in Brachypodium distachyon.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Todd C. Mockler

Committee Members

Tom Brutnell, Justin Fay, Barak Cohen, Elizabeth Haswell,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7V69GVG