Just-in-time transcription program in metabolic pathways

Alon Zaslaver, Avi E. Mayo, Revital Rosenberg, Pnina Bashkin, Hila Sberro, Miri Tsalyuk, Michael G. Surette, Uri Alon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

369 Scopus citations


A primary goal of systems biology is to understand the design principles of the transcription networks that govern the timing of gene expression. Here we measured promoter activity for ∼100 genes in parallel from living cells at a resolution of minutes and accuracy of 10%, based on GFP and Lux reporter libraries. Focusing on the amino-acid biosynthesis systems of Escherichia coli, we identified a previously unknown temporal expression program and expression hierarchy that matches the enzyme order in unbranched pathways. We identified two design principles: the closer the enzyme is to the beginning of the pathway, the shorter the response time of the activation of its promoter and the higher its maximal promoter activity. Mathematical analysis suggests that this 'just-in-time' (ref. 5) transcription program is optimal under constraints of rapidly reaching a production goal with minimal total enzyme production. Our findings suggest that metabolic regulation networks are designed to generate precision promoter timing and activity programs that can be understood using the engineering principles of production pipelines.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)486-491
Number of pages6
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank E. Klipp, W. Leibermeister, M. Vidal and all members of our laboratory for discussions. U.A. acknowledges support from the US National Institutes of Health, Israel Science Foundation and Minerva. A.M. acknowledges a Pacific Theatres Foundation postdoctoral grant.


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