Circuit-level input integration in bacterial gene regulation

Lorena Espinar, Marta Dies, Tolga Çaǧatay, Gürol M. Süel, Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Gene regulatory circuits can receive multiple simultaneous inputs, which can enter the system through different locations. It is thus necessary to establish how these genetic circuits integrate multiple inputs as a function of their relative entry points. Here, we use the dynamic circuit regulating competence for DNA uptake in Bacillus subtilis as a model system to investigate this issue. Specifically, we map the response of single cells in vivo to a combination of (i) a chemical signal controlling the constitutive expression of key competence genes, and (ii) a genetic perturbation in the form of copy number variation of one of these genes, which mimics the level of stress signals sensed by the bacteria. Quantitative time-lapse fluorescence microscopy shows that a variety of dynamical behaviors can be reached by the combination of the two inputs. Additionally, the integration depends strongly on the relative locations where the two perturbations enter the circuit. Specifically, when the two inputs act upon different circuit elements, their integration generates novel dynamical behavior, whereas inputs affecting the same element do not. An in silico bidimensional bifurcation analysis of a mathematical model of the circuit offers good quantitative agreement with the experimental observations, and sheds light on the dynamical mechanisms leading to the different integrated responses exhibited by the gene regulatory circuit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7091-7096
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 23 2013


  • Bistability
  • Excitability
  • Genetic competence
  • Genetic oscillations
  • Signal integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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