Existence, transition, and propagation of intermediate silencing states in ribosomal DNA

Fan Zou, Manyu Du, Hengye Chen, Lu Baia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The MET3 promoter (MET3pr) inserted into the silenced chromosome in budding yeast can overcome Sir2-dependent silencing upon induction and activate transcription in every single cell among a population. Despite the fact that MET3pr is turned on in all the cells, its activity still shows very high cell-to-cell variability. To understand the nature of such “gene expression noise,” we followed the dynamics of the MET3pr-GFP expression inserted into ribosomal DNA (rDNA) using time-lapse microscopy. We found that the noisy “on” state is comprised of multiple substable states with discrete expression levels. These intermediate states stochastically transition between each other, with “up” transitions among different activated states occurring exclusively near the mitotic exit and “down” transitions occurring throughout the rest of the cell cycle. Such cell cycle dependence likely reflects the dynamic activity of the rDNA-specific RENT complex, as MET3pr-GFP expression in a telomeric locus does not have the same cell cycle dependence. The MET3pr-GFP expression in rDNA is highly correlated in mother and daughter cells after cell division, indicating that the silenced state in the mother cell is inherited in daughter cells. These states are disrupted by a brief repression and reset upon a second activation. Potential mechanisms behind these observations are further discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00146-19
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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