We describe a hybrid transcriptomic and modelling analysis of the dynamics of a bacterial response to stress, namely the addition of 200 µM Zn to Escherichia coli growing in severely Zn-depleted medium and of cells growing at different Zn concentrations at steady state. Genes that changed significantly in response to the transition were those reported previously to be associated with zinc deficiency (zinT, znuA, ykgM) or excess (basR, cpxP, cusF). Cellular Zn levels were confirmed by ICP-AES to be 14- to 28-fold greater after Zn addition but there was also 6- to 8-fold more cellular Fe 30 min after Zn addition. Statistical modelling of the transcriptomic data generated from the Zn shift focused on the role of ten key regulators; ArsR, BaeR, CpxR, CusR, Fur, OxyR, SoxS, ZntR, ZraR and Zur. The data and modelling reveal a transient change in the activity of the iron regulator Fur and of the oxidative stress regulator SoxS, neither of which is evident from the steady-state transcriptomic analyses. We hypothesize a competitive binding mechanism that combines these observations and existing data on the physiology of Zn and Fe uptake. Formalizing the mechanism in a differential equation model shows that it can reproduce qualitatively the behaviour seen in the data. This gives new insights into the interplay of these two fundamental metal ions in gene regulation and bacterial physiology, as well as highlighting the importance of dynamic studies to reverse-engineer systems behaviour.
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - 2012|