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Mol Syst Biol. 2008;4:182. doi: 10.1038/msb.2008.21. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Ultrasensitive gene regulation by positive feedback loops in nucleosome modification.

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Center for Models of Life, Niels Bohr Institute, Blegdamsvej, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Eukaryotic transcription involves the synergistic interaction of many different proteins. However, the question remains how eukaryotic promoters achieve ultrasensitive or threshold responses to changes in the concentration or activity of a single transcription factor (TF). We show theoretically that by recruiting a histone-modifying enzyme, a TF binding non-cooperatively to a single site can change the balance between opposing positive feedback loops in histone modification to produce a large change in gene expression in response to a small change in concentration of the TF. This mechanism can also generate bistable promoter responses, allowing a gene to be on in some cells and off in others, despite the cells being in identical conditions. In addition, the system provides a simple means by which the activities of many TFs could be integrated at a promoter.

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