Translational Cross Talk in Gene Networks
W. H. Mather, J. Hasty, L. S. Tsimring and R. J. Williams

It has been shown experimentally that competition for limited translational resources by upstream mRNAs can lead to an anticorrelation between protein counts. Here, we investigate a stochastic model for this phenomenon, in which gene transcripts of different types compete for a finite pool of ribosomes. Throughout, we utilize concepts from the theory of multiclass queues to describe a qualitative shift in protein count statistics as the system transitions from being underloaded (ribosomes exceed transcripts in number) to being overloaded (transcripts exceed ribosomes in number). The exact analytical solution of a simplified stochastic model, in which the numbers of competing mRNAs and ribosomes are fixed, exhibits weak positive correlations between steady-state protein counts when total transcript count slightly exceeds ribosome count, whereas the solution can exhibit strong negative correlations when total transcript count significantly exceeds ribosome count. Extending this analysis, we find approximate but reasonably accurate solutions for a more realistic model, in which abundances of mRNAs and ribosomes are allowed to fluctuate randomly. Here, ribosomal fluctuations contribute positively and mRNA fluctuations contribute negatively to correlations, and when mRNA fluctuations dominate ribosomal fluctuations, a strong anticorrelation extremum reliably occurs near the transition from the underloaded to the overloaded regime.
Published in Biophysical Journal, 104 (2013), 2564-2572. For a copy of the paper, click here to go to the publisher's website.
Last updated: June 5, 2013