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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Jan;39(2):403-13. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq844. Epub 2010 Sep 21.

Gene expression variations are predictive for stochastic noise.

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  • 1Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Fluctuations in protein abundance among single cells are primarily due to the inherent stochasticity in transcription and translation processes, such stochasticity can often confer phenotypic heterogeneity among isogenic cells. It has been proposed that expression noise can be triggered as an adaptation to environmental stresses and genetic perturbations, and as a mechanism to facilitate gene expression evolution. Thus, elucidating the relationship between expression noise, measured at the single-cell level, and expression variation, measured on population of cells, can improve our understanding on the variability and evolvability of gene expression. Here, we showed that noise levels are significantly correlated with conditional expression variations. We further demonstrated that expression variations are highly predictive for noise level, especially in TATA-box containing genes. Our results suggest that expression variabilities can serve as a proxy for noise level, suggesting that these two properties share the same underlining mechanism, e.g. chromatin regulation. Our work paves the way for the study of stochastic noise in other single-cell organisms.

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