Quantifying intrinsic and extrinsic variability in stochastic gene expression models.
ABSTRACT: 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:Cell-to-cell heterogeneity is driven by stochasticity in intracellular reactions and the population dynamics. While these sources are usually studied separately, we develop an agent-based framework that accounts for both factors while tracking every single cell of a growing population. Apart from the common intrinsic variability, the framework also predicts extrinsic noise without the need to introduce fluctuating rate constants. Instead, extrinsic fluctuations are explained by cell cycle fluctuations and differences in cell age. We provide explicit formulas to quantify mean molecule numbers, intrinsic and extrinsic noise statistics in two-colour experiments. We find that these statistics differ significantly depending on the experimental setup used to observe the cells. We illustrate this fact using (i) averages over an isolated cell lineage tracked over many generations as observed in the mother machine, (ii) population snapshots with known cell ages as recorded in time-lapse microscopy, and (iii) snapshots with unknown cell ages as measured from static images or flow cytometry. Applying the method to models of stochastic gene expression and feedback regulation elucidates that isolated lineages, as compared to snapshot data, can significantly overestimate the mean number of molecules, overestimate extrinsic noise but underestimate intrinsic noise and have qualitatively different sensitivities to cell cycle fluctuations.
Project description:Molecular noise refers to fluctuations of biological signals that facilitate phenotypic heterogeneity in a population. While endogenous mechanisms exist to limit genetic noise in biological systems, such restrictions are sometimes removed to propel phenotypic variability as an adaptive strategy. Herein, we review evidence for the potential role of ?-catenin in restricting gene expression noise by transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. We discuss mechanisms that restrict intrinsic noise subsequent to nuclear mobilization of ?-catenin. Nuclear ?-catenin promotes initiation of transcription but buffers against the resultant noise by restraining transcription elongation. Acceleration of cell cycle, mediated via Wnt/?-catenin downstream signals, further diminishes intrinsic noise by curtailing the efficiency of protein synthesis. Extrinsic noise, on the other hand, is restricted by ?-catenin-mediated regulation of major cellular stress pathways.
Project description:Biological networks contain overrepresented small-scale topologies, typically called motifs. A frequently appearing motif is the transcriptional negative-feedback loop, where a gene product represses its own transcription. Here, using synthetic circuits stably integrated in human kidney cells, we study the effect of negative-feedback regulation on cell-wide (extrinsic) and gene-specific (intrinsic) sources of uncertainty. We develop a theoretical approach to extract the two noise components from experiments and show that negative feedback results in significant total noise reduction by reducing extrinsic noise while marginally increasing intrinsic noise. We compare the results to simple negative regulation, where a constitutively transcribed transcription factor represses a reporter protein. We observe that the control architecture also reduces the extrinsic noise but results in substantially higher intrinsic fluctuations. We conclude that negative feedback is the most efficient way to mitigate the effects of extrinsic fluctuations by a sole regulatory wiring.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Apoptosis is a cell suicide mechanism that enables multicellular organisms to maintain homeostasis and to eliminate individual cells that threaten the organism's survival. Dependent on the type of stimulus, apoptosis can be propagated by extrinsic pathway or intrinsic pathway. The comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanism of apoptotic signaling allows for development of mathematical models, aiming to elucidate dynamical and systems properties of apoptotic signaling networks. There have been extensive efforts in modeling deterministic apoptosis network accounting for average behavior of a population of cells. Cellular networks, however, are inherently stochastic and significant cell-to-cell variability in apoptosis response has been observed at single cell level. RESULTS: To address the inevitable randomness in the intrinsic apoptosis mechanism, we develop a theoretical and computational modeling framework of intrinsic apoptosis pathway at single-cell level, accounting for both deterministic and stochastic behavior. Our deterministic model, adapted from the well-accepted Fussenegger model, shows that an additional positive feedback between the executioner caspase and the initiator caspase plays a fundamental role in yielding the desired property of bistability. We then examine the impact of intrinsic fluctuations of biochemical reactions, viewed as intrinsic noise, and natural variation of protein concentrations, viewed as extrinsic noise, on behavior of the intrinsic apoptosis network. Histograms of the steady-state output at varying input levels show that the intrinsic noise could elicit a wider region of bistability over that of the deterministic model. However, the system stochasticity due to intrinsic fluctuations, such as the noise of steady-state response and the randomness of response delay, shows that the intrinsic noise in general is insufficient to produce significant cell-to-cell variations at physiologically relevant level of molecular numbers. Furthermore, the extrinsic noise represented by random variations of two key apoptotic proteins, namely Cytochrome C and inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP), is modeled separately or in combination with intrinsic noise. The resultant stochasticity in the timing of intrinsic apoptosis response shows that the fluctuating protein variations can induce cell-to-cell stochastic variability at a quantitative level agreeing with experiments. Finally, simulations illustrate that the mean abundance of fluctuating IAP protein is positively correlated with the degree of cellular stochasticity of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. CONCLUSIONS: Our theoretical and computational study shows that the pronounced non-genetic heterogeneity in intrinsic apoptosis responses among individual cells plausibly arises from extrinsic rather than intrinsic origin of fluctuations. In addition, it predicts that the IAP protein could serve as a potential therapeutic target for suppression of the cell-to-cell variation in the intrinsic apoptosis responsiveness.
Project description:Inside individual cells, expression of genes is inherently stochastic and manifests as cell-to-cell variability or noise in protein copy numbers. Since proteins half-lives can be comparable to the cell-cycle length, randomness in cell-division times generates additional intercellular variability in protein levels. Moreover, as many mRNA/protein species are expressed at low-copy numbers, errors incurred in partitioning of molecules between two daughter cells are significant. We derive analytical formulas for the total noise in protein levels when the cell-cycle duration follows a general class of probability distributions. Using a novel hybrid approach the total noise is decomposed into components arising from i) stochastic expression; ii) partitioning errors at the time of cell division and iii) random cell-division events. These formulas reveal that random cell-division times not only generate additional extrinsic noise, but also critically affect the mean protein copy numbers and intrinsic noise components. Counter intuitively, in some parameter regimes, noise in protein levels can decrease as cell-division times become more stochastic. Computations are extended to consider genome duplication, where transcription rate is increased at a random point in the cell cycle. We systematically investigate how the timing of genome duplication influences different protein noise components. Intriguingly, results show that noise contribution from stochastic expression is minimized at an optimal genome-duplication time. Our theoretical results motivate new experimental methods for decomposing protein noise levels from synchronized and asynchronized single-cell expression data. Characterizing the contributions of individual noise mechanisms will lead to precise estimates of gene expression parameters and techniques for altering stochasticity to change phenotype of individual cells.
Project description:Enhanced temporal and spatial variability in cardiac repolarization has been related to increased arrhythmic risk both clinically and experimentally. Causes and modulators of variability in repolarization and their implications in arrhythmogenesis are however not well understood. At the ionic level, the slow component of the delayed rectifier potassium current (I(Ks)) is an important determinant of ventricular repolarization. In this study, a combination of experimental and computational multiscale studies is used to investigate the role of intrinsic and extrinsic noise in I(Ks) in modulating temporal and spatial variability in ventricular repolarization in human and guinea pig. Results show that under physiological conditions: i), stochastic fluctuations in I(Ks) gating properties (i.e., intrinsic noise) cause significant beat-to-beat variability in action potential duration (APD) in isolated cells, whereas cell-to-cell differences in channel numbers (i.e., extrinsic noise) also contribute to cell-to-cell APD differences; ii), in tissue, electrotonic interactions mask the effect of I(Ks) noise, resulting in a significant decrease in APD temporal and spatial variability compared to isolated cells. Pathological conditions resulting in gap junctional uncoupling or a decrease in repolarization reserve uncover the manifestation of I(Ks) noise at cellular and tissue level, resulting in enhanced ventricular variability and abnormalities in repolarization such as afterdepolarizations and alternans.
Project description:Protein levels differ considerably between otherwise identical cells, and these differences significantly affect biological function and phenotype. Previous work implicated various noise mechanisms that drive variability in protein copy numbers across an isogenic cell population. For example, transcriptional bursting of mRNAs has been shown to be a major source of noise in the expression of many genes. Additional expression variability, referred to as extrinsic noise, arises from intercellular variations in mRNA transcription and protein translation rates attributed to cell-to-cell differences in cell size, abundance of ribosomes, etc. We propose a method to determine the magnitude of different noise sources in a given gene of interest. The method relies on blocking transcription and measuring changes in protein copy number variability over time. Our results show that this signal has sufficient information to quantify both the extent of extrinsic noise and transcription bursting in gene expression. Moreover, if the mean mRNA count is known, then the relative contributions of transcription versus translation rate fluctuations to extrinsic noise can also be determined. In summary, our study provides an easy-to-implement method for characterizing noisy protein expression that complements existing techniques for studying stochastic dynamics of genetic circuits.
Project description:Gene expression is a stochastic, or "noisy," process. This noise comes about in two ways. The inherent stochasticity of biochemical processes such as transcription and translation generates "intrinsic" noise. In addition, fluctuations in the amounts or states of other cellular components lead indirectly to variation in the expression of a particular gene and thus represent "extrinsic" noise. Here, we show how the total variation in the level of expression of a given gene can be decomposed into its intrinsic and extrinsic components. We demonstrate theoretically that simultaneous measurement of two identical genes per cell enables discrimination of these two types of noise. Analytic expressions for intrinsic noise are given for a model that involves all the major steps in transcription and translation. These expressions give the sensitivity to various parameters, quantify the deviation from Poisson statistics, and provide a way of fitting experiment. Transcription dominates the intrinsic noise when the average number of proteins made per mRNA transcript is greater than approximately 2. Below this number, translational effects also become important. Gene replication and cell division, included in the model, cause protein numbers to tend to a limit cycle. We calculate a general form for the extrinsic noise and illustrate it with the particular case of a single fluctuating extrinsic variable-a repressor protein, which acts on the gene of interest. All results are confirmed by stochastic simulation using plausible parameters for Escherichia coli.
Project description:Cell-to-cell variability in mRNA and proteins has been observed in many biological systems, including the human innate immune response to viral infection. Most of these studies have focused on variability that arises from (a) intrinsic stochastic fluctuations in gene expression and (b) extrinsic sources (e.g. fluctuations in transcription factors). The main focus of our study is the effect of extracellular signaling on enhancing intrinsic stochastic fluctuations. As a new source of noise, the communication between cells with fluctuating numbers of components has received little attention. We use agent-based modeling to study this contribution to noise in a system of human dendritic cells responding to viral infection.Our results, validated by single-cell experiments, show that in the transient state cell-to-cell variability in an interferon-stimulated gene (DDX58) arises from the interplay between the spatial randomness of the cellular sources of the interferon and the temporal stochasticity of its own production. The numerical simulations give insight into the time scales on which autocrine and paracrine signaling act in a heterogeneous population of dendritic cells upon viral infection. We study the effect of different factors that influence the magnitude of the cell-to-cell-variability of the induced gene, including the cell density, multiplicity of infection, and the time scale over which the cellular sources begin producing the cytokine.We propose a mechanism of noise propagation through extracellular communication and establish conditions under which the mechanism is operative. The cellular stochasticity of gene induction, which we investigate, is not limited to the specific interferon-induced gene we have studied; a broad distribution of copy numbers across cells is to be expected for other interferon-stimulated genes. This can lead to functional consequences for the system-level response to a viral challenge.
Project description:The p53 protein is a key mediator of the cellular response to various stress signals. In response to DNA damage, the concentration of p53 can temporally oscillate with fluctuations in both the amplitude and period. The underlying mechanism for p53 variability is not fully understood. Here, we construct a core regulatory network of p53 dynamics comprising the ATM-p53-Wip1 and p53-Mdm2 negative feedback loops. We dissect the contributions of cellular heterogeneity, intrinsic noise, and multiple forms of extrinsic noise to p53 variability in terms of the coefficients of variation of four quantities. Cellular heterogeneity greatly determines the fraction of oscillating cells among a population of isogenic cells. Intrinsic noise-fluctuation in biochemical reactions-has little impact on p53 variability given large amounts of molecules, whereas extrinsic colored noise with proper strength and correlation time contributes much to oscillatory variability in individual cells. With the three sources of noise combined, our results reproduce the experimental observations, suggesting that the long correlation time of colored noise is essential to p53 variability. Compared with previous studies, the current work reveals both the individual and integrated effects of distinct noise sources on p53 variability. This study provides a framework for exploring the variability in oscillations in cellular signaling pathways.