A quantitative study of the benefits of co-regulation using the spoIIA operon as an example

Mol Syst Biol. 2006;2:43. doi: 10.1038/msb4100084. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


The distribution of most genes is not random, and functionally linked genes are often found in clusters. Several theories have been put forward to explain the emergence and persistence of operons in bacteria. Careful analysis of genomic data favours the co-regulation model, where gene organization into operons is driven by the benefits of coordinated gene expression and regulation. Direct evidence that coexpression increases the individual's fitness enough to ensure operon formation and maintenance is, however, still lacking. Here, a previously described quantitative model of the network that controls the transcription factor sigma(F) during sporulation in Bacillus subtilis is employed to quantify the benefits arising from both organization of the sporulation genes into the spoIIA operon and from translational coupling. The analysis shows that operon organization, together with translational coupling, is important because of the inherent stochastic nature of gene expression, which skews the ratios between protein concentrations in the absence of co-regulation. The predicted impact of different forms of gene regulation on fitness and survival agrees quantitatively with published sporulation efficiencies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Operon / genetics*
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism
  • Spores, Bacterial / genetics
  • Stochastic Processes


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Sigma Factor
  • spore-specific proteins, Bacillus