Deconvolution of gene expression noise into spatial dynamics of transcription factor-promoter interplay

by Angel Goñi Moreno

16:00 (40 min) in Daysh G.07

Gene expression noise is not only the mere consequence of stochasticity, but also a signal that reflects the upstream physical dynamics of the cognate molecular machinery. Soil bacteria facing recalcitrant pollutants exploit noise of catabolic promoters to deploy beneficial phenotypes such as metabolic bet-hedging and/or division of biochemical labour. Although the role of upstream promoter-regulator interplay in the origin of this noise is little understood, its specifications are probably ciphered in flow cytometry data patterns.

We studied Pm promoter activity of the environmental bacterium Pseudomonas putida and its cognate regulator XylS by following expression of Pm-gfp fusions in single cells. Using mathematical modelling and computational simulations, we determined the kinetic properties of the system and used them as a baseline code to interpret promoter activity in terms of upstream regulator dynamics. Transcriptional noise was predicted to depend on the intracellular physical distance between regulator source (where XylS is produced) and the target promoter. Experiments with engineered bacteria in which this distance is minimised or enlarged confirmed the predicted effects of source/target proximity on noise patterns. This approach allowed deconvolution of cytometry data into mechanistic information on gene expression flow. It also provided a basis for selecting programmable noise levels in synthetic regulatory circuits.