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Mol Syst Biol. 2018 Feb 23;14(2):e7678. doi: 10.15252/msb.20177678.

Estrogen-dependent control and cell-to-cell variability of transcriptional bursting.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, Mainz, Germany.
Institute of Molecular Biology, Mainz, Germany
European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.


Cellular decision-making and environmental adaptation are dependent upon a heterogeneous response of gene expression to external cues. Heterogeneity arises in transcription from random switching between transcriptionally active and inactive states, resulting in bursts of RNA synthesis. Furthermore, the cellular state influences the competency of transcription, thereby globally affecting gene expression in a cell-specific manner. We determined how external stimuli interplay with cellular state to modulate the kinetics of bursting. To this end, single-cell dynamics of nascent transcripts were monitored at the endogenous estrogen-responsive GREB1 locus. Stochastic modeling of gene expression implicated a two-state promoter model in which the estrogen stimulus modulates the frequency of transcriptional bursting. The cellular state affects transcriptional dynamics by altering initiation and elongation kinetics and acts globally, as GREB1 alleles in the same cell correlate in their transcriptional output. Our results suggest that cellular state strongly affects the first step of the central dogma of gene expression, to promote heterogeneity in the transcriptional output of isogenic cells.


bursting; estrogen signaling; heterogeneity; stochastic modeling; transcription


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