Kinetics of genetic switching into the state of bacterial competence.

TitleKinetics of genetic switching into the state of bacterial competence.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsLeisner, M, Kuhr, J-T, Rädler, JO, Frey, E, Maier, B
JournalBiophys J
Date Published2009 Feb
KeywordsBacillus subtilis, Bacterial Proteins, Cell Count, Cell Proliferation, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Genes, Bacterial, Kinetics, Models, Biological, Mutation, Phenotype, Probability, Stochastic Processes, Transcription Factors

Nonlinear amplification of gene expression of master regulators is essential for cellular differentiation. Here we investigated determinants that control the kinetics of the genetic switching process from the vegetative state (B-state) to the competent state (K-state) of Bacillus subtilis, explicitly including the switching window which controls the probability for competence initiation in a cell population. For individual cells, we found that after initiation of switching, the levels of the master regulator [ComK](t) increased with sigmoid shape and saturation occurred at two distinct levels of [ComK]. We analyzed the switching kinetics into the state with highest [ComK] and found saturation after a switching period of length 1.4 +/- 0.3 h. The duration of the switching period was robust against variations in the gene regulatory network of the master regulator, whereas the saturation levels showed large variations between individual isogenic cells. We developed a nonlinear dynamics model, taking into account low-number stochastic effects. The model quantitatively describes the probability and timescale of switching at the single cell level and explains why the ComK level in the K-state is highly sensitive to extrinsic parameter variations. Furthermore, the model predicts a transition from stochastic to deterministic switching at increased production rates of ComK in agreement with experimental data.

Alternate JournalBiophys. J.