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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1668. doi: 10.1038/srep01668.

Turning oscillations into opportunities: lessons from a bacterial decision gate.

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Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Ave, Boston MA 02215, USA.


Sporulation vs. competence provides a prototypic example of collective cell fate determination. The decision is performed by the action of three modules: 1) A stochastic competence switch whose transition probability is regulated by population density, population stress and cell stress. 2) A sporulation timer whose clock rate is regulated by cell stress and population stress. 3) A decision gate that is coupled to the timer via a special repressilator-like loop. We show that the distinct circuit architecture of this gate leads to special dynamics and noise management characteristics: The gate opens a time-window of opportunity for competence transitions during which it generates oscillations that are turned into a chain of transition opportunities - each oscillation opens a short interval with high transition probability. The special architecture of the gate also leads to filtering of external noise and robustness against internal noise and variations in the circuit parameters.

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