Noise reduction by diffusional dissipation in a minimal quorum sensing motif.
Cellular interactions are subject to random fluctuations (noise) in quantities of interacting molecules. Noise presents a major challenge for the robust function of natural and engineered cellular networks. Past studies have analyzed how noise is regulated at the intracellular level. Cell-cell communication, however, may provide a complementary strategy to achieve robust gene expression by enabling the coupling of a cell with its environment and other cells. To gain insight into this issue, we have examined noise regulation by quorum sensing (QS), a mechanism by which many bacteria communicate through production and sensing of small diffusible signals. Using a stochastic model, we analyze a minimal QS motif in Gram-negative bacteria. Our analysis shows that diffusion of the QS signal, together with fast turnover of its transcriptional regulator, attenuates low-frequency components of extrinsic noise. We term this unique mechanism "diffusional dissipation" to emphasize the importance of fast signal turnover (or dissipation) by diffusion. We further show that this noise attenuation is a property of a more generic regulatory motif, of which QS is an implementation. Our results suggest that, in a QS system, an unstable transcriptional regulator may be favored for regulating expression of costly proteins that generate public goods.
Tanouchi, Y; Tu, D; Kim, J; You, L
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