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Open Access Research article

Transcriptional robustness and protein interactions are associated in yeast

Michaël Bekaert1* and Gavin C Conant12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Animal Sciences, University of Missouri, 920 East Campus Drive, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

2 Informatics Institute, University of Missouri, 920 East Campus Drive, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:62  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-62

Published: 5 May 2011



Robustness to insults, both external and internal, is a characteristic feature of life. One level of biological organization for which noise and robustness have been extensively studied is gene expression. Cells have a variety of mechanisms for buffering noise in gene expression, but it is not completely clear what rules govern whether or not a given gene uses such tools to maintain appropriate expression.


Here, we show a general association between the degree to which yeast cells have evolved mechanisms to buffer changes in gene expression and whether they possess protein-protein interactions. We argue that this effect bears an affinity to epistasis, because yeast appears to have evolved regulatory mechanisms such that distant changes in gene copy number for a protein-protein interaction partner gene can alter a gene's expression. This association is not unexpected given recent work linking epistasis and the deleterious effects of changes in gene dosage (i.e., the dosage balance hypothesis). Using gene expression data from artificial aneuploid strains of bakers' yeast, we found that genes coding for proteins that physically interact with other proteins show less expression variation in response to aneuploidy than do other genes. This effect is even more pronounced for genes whose products interact with proteins encoded on aneuploid chromosomes. We further found that genes targeted by transcription factors encoded on aneuploid chromosomes were more likely to change in expression after aneuploidy.


We suggest that these observations can be best understood as resulting from the higher fitness cost of misexpression in epistatic genes and a commensurate greater regulatory control of them.

Aneuploidy; Dosage balance; Epistasis; Protein-Protein Interactions; Saccharomyces cerevisiae