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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Cell signaling can direct either binary or graded transcriptional responses.

Transcriptional control is generally thought to operate as a binary switch, a behavior that might explain observations such as monoallelic gene expression, stochastic phenotypic changes and bimodal gene activation kinetics. By measuring the activity of the single-copy GAL1 promoter in single cells, we found that changes in the activities of either the transcriptional activator, Gal4 (by simple recruitment with synthetic ligands), or the transcriptional repressor, Mig1, generated graded (non-binary) changes in gene expression that were proportional to signal intensity. However, in the context of the endogenous glucose-responsive signaling pathway, these transcription factors formed part of a binary transcriptional response. Genetic studies demonstrated that this binary response resulted from regulation of a second repressor, Gal80, whereas regulation of Mig1 by a distinct signaling pathway generated graded changes in GAL1 promoter activity. Surprisingly, isogenetic cells can respond to glucose with either binary or graded changes in gene expression, depending on growth conditions. Our studies demonstrate that a given promoter can adapt either binary or graded behavior, and identify the Mig1 and Gal80 genes as necessary for binary versus graded behavior of the Gal1 promoter.[1]


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