Single-cell analysis of ribonucleotide reductase transcriptional and translational response to DNA damage

Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Feb;33(3):635-42. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01020-12. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


The ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) enzyme catalyzes an essential step in the production of deoxyribonucleotide triphosphates (dNTPs) in cells. Bulk biochemical measurements in synchronized Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells suggest that RNR mRNA production is maximal in late G(1) and S phases; however, damaged DNA induces RNR transcription throughout the cell cycle. But such en masse measurements reveal neither cell-to-cell heterogeneity in responses nor direct correlations between transcript and protein expression or localization in single cells which may be central to function. We overcame these limitations by simultaneous detection of single RNR transcripts and also Rnr proteins in the same individual asynchronous S. cerevisiae cells, with and without DNA damage by methyl methanesulfonate (MMS). Surprisingly, RNR subunit mRNA levels were comparably low in both damaged and undamaged G(1) cells and highly induced in damaged S/G(2) cells. Transcript numbers became correlated with both protein levels and localization only upon DNA damage in a cell cycle-dependent manner. Further, we showed that the differential RNR response to DNA damage correlated with variable Mec1 kinase activity in the cell cycle in single cells. The transcription of RNR genes was found to be noisy and non-Poissonian in nature. Our results provide vital insight into cell cycle-dependent RNR regulation under conditions of genotoxic stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle
  • DNA Damage*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Protein Subunits / analysis
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases / analysis
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Protein Subunits
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases