Functionally related genes tend to be chromosomally clustered in eukaryotic genomes even after the exclusion of tandem duplicates, but the biological significance of this widespread phenomenon is unclear. We propose that stochastic expression fluctuations of neighboring genes resulting from chromatin dynamics are more or less synchronized such that their expression ratio is more stable than that for unlinked genes. Consequently, chromosomal clustering could be advantageous when the expression ratio of the clustered genes needs to stay constant, for example, because of the accumulation of toxic compounds when this ratio is altered. Evidence from manipulative experiments on the yeast GAL cluster, comprising three chromosomally adjacent genes encoding enzymes catalyzing consecutive reactions in galactose catabolism, unequivocally supports this hypothesis and elucidates how disorder in one biological phenomenon—gene expression noise—could prompt the emergence of order in another—genome organization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas