Promoter sequence determines the relationship between expression level and noise.
ABSTRACT: The ability of cells to accurately control gene expression levels in response to extracellular cues is limited by the inherently stochastic nature of transcriptional regulation. A change in transcription factor (TF) activity results in changes in the expression of its targets, but the way in which cell-to-cell variability in expression (noise) changes as a function of TF activity, and whether targets of the same TF behave similarly, is not known. Here, we measure expression and noise as a function of TF activity for 16 native targets of the transcription factor Zap1 that are regulated by it through diverse mechanisms. For most activated and repressed Zap1 targets, noise decreases as expression increases. Kinetic modeling suggests that this is due to two distinct Zap1-mediated mechanisms that both change the frequency of transcriptional bursts. Notably, we found that another mechanism of repression by Zap1, which is encoded in the promoter DNA, likely decreases the size of transcriptional bursts, producing a unique transcriptional state characterized by low expression and low noise. In addition, we find that further reduction in noise is achieved when a single TF both activates and represses a single target gene. Our results suggest a global principle whereby at low TF concentrations, the dominant source of differences in expression between promoters stems from differences in burst frequency, whereas at high TF concentrations differences in burst size dominate. Taken together, we show that the precise amount by which noise changes with expression is specific to the regulatory mechanism of transcription and translation that acts at each gene.
Project description:Bursts of nascent mRNA have been shown to lead to substantial cell-cell variation in unicellular organisms, facilitating diverse responses to environmental challenges. It is unknown whether similar bursts and gene-expression noise occur in mammalian tissues. To address this, we combine single molecule transcript counting with dual-color labeling and quantification of nascent mRNA to characterize promoter states, transcription rates, and transcript lifetimes in the intact mouse liver. We find that liver gene expression is highly bursty, with promoters stochastically switching between transcriptionally active and inactive states. Promoters of genes with short mRNA lifetimes are active longer, facilitating rapid response while reducing burst-associated noise. Moreover, polyploid hepatocytes exhibit less noise than diploid hepatocytes, suggesting a possible benefit to liver polyploidy. Thus, temporal averaging and liver polyploidy dampen the intrinsic variability associated with transcriptional bursts. Our approach can be used to study transcriptional bursting in diverse mammalian tissues.
Project description:Genetically identical cell populations exhibit considerable intercellular variation in the level of a given protein or mRNA. Both intrinsic and extrinsic sources of noise drive this variability in gene expression. More specifically, extrinsic noise is the expression variability that arises from cell-to-cell differences in cell-specific factors such as enzyme levels, cell size and cell cycle stage. In contrast, intrinsic noise is the expression variability that is not accounted for by extrinsic noise, and typically arises from the inherent stochastic nature of biochemical processes. Two-color reporter experiments are employed to decompose expression variability into its intrinsic and extrinsic noise components. Analytical formulas for intrinsic and extrinsic noise are derived for a class of stochastic gene expression models, where variations in cell-specific factors cause fluctuations in model parameters, in particular, transcription and/or translation rate fluctuations. Assuming mRNA production occurs in random bursts, transcription rate is represented by either the burst frequency (how often the bursts occur) or the burst size (number of mRNAs produced in each burst). Our analysis shows that fluctuations in the transcription burst frequency enhance extrinsic noise but do not affect the intrinsic noise. On the contrary, fluctuations in the transcription burst size or mRNA translation rate dramatically increase both intrinsic and extrinsic noise components. Interestingly, simultaneous fluctuations in transcription and translation rates arising from randomness in ATP abundance can decrease intrinsic noise measured in a two-color reporter assay. Finally, we discuss how these formulas can be combined with single-cell gene expression data from two-color reporter experiments for estimating model parameters.
Project description:Transcription is a stochastic process occurring mostly in episodic bursts. Although the local chromatin environment is known to influence the bursting behavior on long timescales, the impact of transcription factors (TFs)--especially in rapidly inducible systems--is largely unknown. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization and computational models, we quantified the transcriptional activity of the proto-oncogene c-Fos with single mRNA accuracy at individual endogenous alleles. We showed that, during MAPK induction, the TF concentration modulates the burst frequency of c-Fos, whereas other bursting parameters remain mostly unchanged. By using synthetic TFs with TALE DNA-binding domains, we systematically altered different aspects of these bursts. Specifically, we linked the polymerase initiation frequency to the strength of the transactivation domain and the burst duration to the TF lifetime on the promoter. Our results show how TFs and promoter binding domains collectively act to regulate different bursting parameters, offering a vast, evolutionarily tunable regulatory range for individual genes.
Project description:The genome contains several high-affinity non-functional binding sites for transcription factors (TFs) creating a hidden and unexplored layer of gene regulation. We investigate the role of such "decoy sites" in controlling noise (random fluctuations) in the level of a TF that is synthesized in stochastic bursts. Prior studies have assumed that decoy-bound TFs are protected from degradation, and in this case decoys function to buffer noise. Relaxing this assumption to consider arbitrary degradation rates for both bound/unbound TF states, we find rich noise behaviors. For low-affinity decoys, noise in the level of unbound TF always monotonically decreases to the Poisson limit with increasing decoy numbers. In contrast, for high-affinity decoys, noise levels first increase with increasing decoy numbers, before decreasing back to the Poisson limit. Interestingly, while protection of bound TFs from degradation slows the time-scale of fluctuations in the unbound TF levels, the decay of bound TFs leads to faster fluctuations and smaller noise propagation to downstream target proteins. In summary, our analysis reveals stochastic dynamics emerging from nonspecific binding of TFs and highlights the dual role of decoys as attenuators or amplifiers of gene expression noise depending on their binding affinity and stability of the bound TF.
Project description:It is unknown how the dynamic binding of transcription factors (TFs) is molecularly linked to chromatin remodeling and transcription. Using single-molecule tracking (SMT), we show that the chromatin remodeler RSC speeds up the search process of the TF Ace1p for its response elements (REs) at the CUP1 promoter. We quantified smFISH mRNA data using a gene bursting model and demonstrated that RSC regulates transcription bursts of CUP1 only by modulating TF occupancy but does not affect initiation and elongation rates. We show by SMT that RSC binds to activated promoters transiently, and based on MNase-seq data, that RSC does not affect the nucleosomal occupancy at CUP1. Therefore, transient binding of Ace1p and rapid bursts of transcription at CUP1 may be dependent on short repetitive cycles of nucleosome mobilization. This type of regulation reduces the transcriptional noise and ensures a homogeneous response of the cell population to heavy metal stress.
Project description:Negative feedback loops have been invoked as a way to control and decrease transcriptional noise. Here, we have built three circuits to test the effect of negative feedback loops on transcriptional noise of an autoregulated gene encoding a transcription factor (TF) and a downstream gene (DG), regulated by this TF. Experimental analysis shows that self-repression decreases noise compared to expression from a non-regulated promoter. Interestingly enough, we find that noise minimization by negative feedback loop is optimal within a range of repression strength. Repression values outside this range result in noise increase producing a U-shaped behaviour. This behaviour is the result of external noise probably arising from plasmid fluctuations as shown by simulation of the network. Regarding the target gene of a self-repressed TF (sTF), we find a strong decrease of noise when repression by the sTF is strong and a higher degree of noise anti-correlation between sTF and its target. Simulations of the circuits indicate that the main source of noise in these circuits could come from plasmid variation and therefore that negative feedback loops play an important role in suppressing both external and internal noise. An important observation is that DG expression without negative feedback exhibits bimodality at intermediate TF repression values. This bimodal behaviour seems to be the result of external noise as it can only be found in those simulations that include plasmid variation.
Project description:Recent evidence suggests involvement of coagulation factor XIa (FXIa) in thrombotic event development. This study was conducted to explore possible synergies between tissue factor (TF) and exogenous FXIa (E-FXIa) in thrombin generation.In thrombin generation assays, for increasing concentrations of E-FXIa with low, but not with high TF concentrations, peak thrombin significantly increased whereas lag time and time to peak significantly decreased. Similar dependencies of lag times and rates of thrombin generation were found in mathematical model simulations. In both in vitro and in silico experiments that included E-FXIa, thrombin bursts were seen for TF levels much lower than those required without E-FXIa. For in silico thrombin bursts initiated by the synergistic action of TF and E-FXIa, the mechanisms leading to the burst differed substantially from those for bursts initiated by high TF alone. For the synergistic case, sustained activation of platelet-bound FIX by E-FXIa, along with the feedback-enhanced activation of platelet-bound FVIIIa and FXa, was needed to elicit a thrombin burst. Furthermore, the initiation of thrombin bursts by high TF levels relied on different platelet FIX/FIXa binding sites than those involved in bursts initiated by low TF levels with E-FXIa.Low concentrations of TF and exogenous FXIa, each too low to elicit a burst in thrombin production alone, act synergistically when in combination to cause substantial thrombin production. The observation about FIX/FIXa binding sites may have therapeutic implications.
Project description:Gene expression noise is not just ubiquitous but also variable, and we still do not understand some of the most elementary factors that affect it. Among them is the residence time of a transcription factor (TF) on DNA, the mean time that a DNA-bound TF remains bound. Here, we use a stochastic model of transcriptional regulation to study how residence time affects the gene expression noise that arises when a TF induces gene expression. We find that the effect of residence time on gene expression noise depends on the TF's concentration and its affinity to DNA, which determine the level of induction of the gene. At high levels of induction, residence time has no effect on gene expression noise. However, as the level of induction decreases, short residence times reduce gene expression noise. The reason is that fast on-off TF binding dynamics prevent long periods where proteins are predominantly synthesized or degraded, which can cause excessive fluctuations in gene expression. As a consequence, short residence times can help a gene regulation system acquire information about the cellular environment it operates in. Our predictions are consistent with the observation that experimentally measured residence times are usually modest and lie between seconds to minutes.
Project description:Individual cells in genetically homogeneous populations have been found to express different numbers of molecules of specific proteins. We investigated the origins of these variations in mammalian cells by counting individual molecules of mRNA produced from a reporter gene that was stably integrated into the cell's genome. We found that there are massive variations in the number of mRNA molecules present in each cell. These variations occur because mRNAs are synthesized in short but intense bursts of transcription beginning when the gene transitions from an inactive to an active state and ending when they transition back to the inactive state. We show that these transitions are intrinsically random and not due to global, extrinsic factors such as the levels of transcriptional activators. Moreover, the gene activation causes burst-like expression of all genes within a wider genomic locus. We further found that bursts are also exhibited in the synthesis of natural genes. The bursts of mRNA expression can be buffered at the protein level by slow protein degradation rates. A stochastic model of gene activation and inactivation was developed to explain the statistical properties of the bursts. The model showed that increasing the level of transcription factors increases the average size of the bursts rather than their frequency. These results demonstrate that gene expression in mammalian cells is subject to large, intrinsically random fluctuations and raise questions about how cells are able to function in the face of such noise.
Project description:Gene expression in individual cells is highly variable and sporadic, often resulting in the synthesis of mRNAs and proteins in bursts. Such bursting has important consequences for cell-fate decisions in diverse processes ranging from HIV-1 viral infections to stem-cell differentiation. It is generally assumed that bursts are geometrically distributed and that they arrive according to a Poisson process. On the other hand, recent single-cell experiments provide evidence for complex burst arrival processes, highlighting the need for analysis of more general stochastic models. To address this issue, we invoke a mapping between general stochastic models of gene expression and systems studied in queueing theory to derive exact analytical expressions for the moments associated with mRNA/protein steady-state distributions. These results are then used to derive noise signatures, i.e. explicit conditions based entirely on experimentally measurable quantities, that determine if the burst distributions deviate from the geometric distribution or if burst arrival deviates from a Poisson process. For non-Poisson arrivals, we develop approaches for accurate estimation of burst parameters. The proposed approaches can lead to new insights into transcriptional bursting based on measurements of steady-state mRNA/protein distributions.