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Gene Transcription as a Limiting Factor in Protein Production and Cell Growth

Authors
  • Metzl-Raz, Eyal
  • Kafri, Moshe
  • Yaakov, Gilad
  • Barkai, Naama
Type
Published Article
Journal
G3 Genes|Genome|Genetics
Publisher
The Genetics Society of America
Publication Date
Jul 21, 2020
Volume
10
Issue
9
Pages
3229–3242
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1534/g3.120.401303
PMID: 32694199
PMCID: PMC7466996
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Cell growth is driven by the synthesis of proteins, genes, and other cellular components. Defining processes that limit biosynthesis rates is fundamental for understanding the determinants of cell physiology. Here, we analyze the consequences of engineering cells to express extremely high levels of mCherry proteins, as a tool to define limiting processes that fail to adapt upon increasing biosynthetic demands. Protein-burdened cells were transcriptionally and phenotypically similar to mutants of the Mediator, a transcription coactivator complex. However, our binding data suggest that the Mediator was not depleted from endogenous promoters. Burdened cells showed an overall increase in the abundance of the majority of endogenous transcripts, except for highly expressed genes. Our results, supported by mathematical modeling, suggest that wild-type cells transcribe highly expressed genes at the maximal possible rate, as defined by the transcription machinery’s physical properties. We discuss the possible cellular benefit of maximal transcription rates to allow a coordinated optimization of cell size and cell growth.

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