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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Balancing noise and plasticity in eukaryotic gene expression

Djordje Bajić and Juan F Poyatos*

Author affiliations

Logic of Genomic Systems Laboratory, Spanish National Biotechnology Centre, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:343  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-343

Published: 27 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Coupling the control of expression stochasticity (noise) to the ability of expression change (plasticity) can alter gene function and influence adaptation. A number of factors, such as transcription re-initiation, strong chromatin regulation or genome neighboring organization, underlie this coupling. However, these factors do not necessarily combine in equivalent ways and strengths in all genes. Can we identify then alternative architectures that modulate in distinct ways the linkage of noise and plasticity?

Results

Here we first show that strong chromatin regulation, commonly viewed as a source of coupling, can lead to plasticity without noise. The nature of this regulation is relevant too, with plastic but noiseless genes being subjected to general activators whereas plastic and noisy genes experience more specific repression. Contrarily, in genes exhibiting poor transcriptional control, it is translational efficiency what separates noise from plasticity, a pattern related to transcript length. This additionally implies that genome neighboring organization –as modifier– appears only effective in highly plastic genes. In this class, we confirm bidirectional promoters (bipromoters) as a configuration capable to reduce coupling by abating noise but also reveal an important trade-off, since bipromoters also decrease plasticity. This presents ultimately a paradox between intergenic distances and modulation, with short intergenic distances both associated and disassociated to noise at different plasticity levels.

Conclusions

Balancing the coupling among different types of expression variability appears as a potential shaping force of genome regulation and organization. This is reflected in the use of different control strategies at genes with different sets of functional constraints.