Microbes can tailor transcriptional responses to diverse environmental challenges despite having streamlined genomes and a limited number of regulators. Here, we present data-driven models that capture the dynamic interplay of the environment and genome-encoded regulatory programs of two types of prokaryotes: Escherichia coli (a bacterium) and Halobacterium salinarum (an archaeon). The models reveal how the genome-wide distributions of cis-acting gene regulatory elements and the conditional influences of transcription factors at each of those elements encode programs for eliciting a wide array of environment-specific responses. We demonstrate how these programs partition transcriptional regulation of genes within regulons and operons to re-organize gene-gene functional associations in each environment. The models capture fitness-relevant co-regulation by different transcriptional control mechanisms acting across the entire genome, to define a generalized, system-level organizing principle for prokaryotic gene regulatory networks that goes well beyond existing paradigms of gene regulation. An online resource (http://egrin2.systemsbiology.net) has been developed to facilitate multiscale exploration of conditional gene regulation in the two prokaryotes.
Keywords: EGRIN; gene regulatory networks; systems biology; transcriptional regulation.
© 2014 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.