The propagation of perturbations in rewired bacterial gene networks

Nat Commun. 2015 Dec 16;6:10105. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10105.


What happens to gene expression when you add new links to a gene regulatory network? To answer this question, we profile 85 network rewirings in E. coli. Here we report that concerted patterns of differential expression propagate from reconnected hub genes. The rewirings link promoter regions to different transcription factor and σ-factor genes, resulting in perturbations that span four orders of magnitude, changing up to ∼ 70% of the transcriptome. Importantly, factor connectivity and promoter activity both associate with perturbation size. Perturbations from related rewirings have more similar transcription profiles and a statistical analysis reveals ∼ 20 underlying states of the system, associating particular gene groups with rewiring constructs. We examine two large clusters (ribosomal and flagellar genes) in detail. These represent alternative global outcomes from different rewirings because of antagonism between these major cell states. This data set of systematically related perturbations enables reverse engineering and discovery of underlying network interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic


  • Escherichia coli Proteins