Regulation of cell-to-cell variability in divergent gene expression

Chao Yan, Shuyang Wu, Christopher Pocetti, Lu Bai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Cell-to-cell variability (noise) is an important feature of gene expression that impacts cell fitness and development. The regulatory mechanism of this variability is not fully understood. Here we investigate the effect on gene expression noise in divergent gene pairs (DGPs). We generated reporters driven by divergent promoters, rearranged their gene order, and probed their expressions using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization (smFISH). We show that two genes in a co-regulated DGP have higher expression covariance compared with the separate, tandem and convergent configurations, and this higher covariance is caused by more synchronized firing of the divergent transcriptions. For differentially regulated DGPs, the regulatory signal of one gene can stochastically "leak"™ to the other, causing increased gene expression noise. We propose that the DGPs"™ function in limiting or promoting gene expression noise may enhance or compromise cell fitness, providing an explanation for the conservation pattern of DGPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11099
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Mar 24 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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