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Regulation of asymmetries in the kinetics and protein numbers of bacterial gene expression

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Gene Regulatory Mechanisms
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Genetic circuits change the status quo of cellular processes when their protein numbers cross thresholds. We investigate the regulation of RNA and protein threshold crossing propensities in Escherichia coli. From in vivo single RNA time-lapse microscopy data from multiple promoters, mutants, induction schemes and media, we study the asymmetry and tailedness (quantified by the skewness and kurtosis, respectively) of the distributions of time intervals between transcription events. We find that higher thresholds can be reached by increasing the skewness and kurtosis, which is shown to be achievable without affecting mean and coefficient of variation, by regulating the rate-limiting steps in transcription initiation. Also, they propagate to the skewness and kurtosis of the distributions of protein expression levels in cell populations. The results suggest that the asymmetry and tailedness of RNA and protein numbers in cell populations, by controlling the propensity for threshold crossing, and due to being sequence dependent and subject to regulation, may be key regulatory variables of decision-making processes in E. coli.


  • Asymmetry and tailedness, RNA and protein numbers, Single-cell time-lapse microscopy, Threshold crossing, Transcription initiation

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