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MBio. 2015 May 26;6(3):e00686-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00686-15.

Temporal hierarchy of gene expression mediated by transcription factor binding affinity and activation dynamics.

Author information

1
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.
2
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA stock@cabm.rutgers.edu.

Abstract

Understanding cellular responses to environmental stimuli requires not only the knowledge of specific regulatory components but also the quantitative characterization of the magnitude and timing of regulatory events. The two-component system is one of the major prokaryotic signaling schemes and is the focus of extensive interest in quantitative modeling and investigation of signaling dynamics. Here we report how the binding affinity of the PhoB two-component response regulator (RR) to target promoters impacts the level and timing of expression of PhoB-regulated genes. Information content has often been used to assess the degree of conservation for transcription factor (TF)-binding sites. We show that increasing the information content of PhoB-binding sites in designed phoA promoters increased the binding affinity and that the binding affinity and concentration of phosphorylated PhoB (PhoB~P) together dictate the level and timing of expression of phoA promoter variants. For various PhoB-regulated promoters with distinct promoter architectures, expression levels appear not to be correlated with TF-binding affinities, in contrast to the intuitive and oversimplified assumption that promoters with higher affinity for a TF tend to have higher expression levels. However, the expression timing of the core set of PhoB-regulated genes correlates well with the binding affinity of PhoB~P to individual promoters and the temporal hierarchy of gene expression appears to be related to the function of gene products during the phosphate starvation response. Modulation of the information content and binding affinity of TF-binding sites may be a common strategy for temporal programming of the expression profile of RR-regulated genes.

IMPORTANCE:

A single TF often orchestrates the expression of multiple genes in response to environmental stimuli. It is not clear how different TF-binding sites within the regulon dictate the expression profile. Our studies of Escherichia coli PhoB, a response regulator that controls expression of a core set of phosphate assimilation genes in response to phosphate starvation, showed that expression levels of PhoB-regulated genes are under sophisticated control and do not follow a simple correlation with the binding affinity of PhoB~P to individual promoters. However, the expression timing correlates with the PhoB-binding affinity and gene functions. Genes involved in direct Pi uptake contain high-affinity sites and are transcribed earlier than genes involved in phosphorus scavenging. This illustrates an elaborate mechanism of temporally programmed gene expression, even for nondevelopmental pathways.

PMID:
26015501
PMCID:
PMC4447250
DOI:
10.1128/mBio.00686-15
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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