Stimulus-dependent differential regulation in the Escherichia coli PhoQ-PhoP system

Tim Miyashiro, Mark Goulian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and related bacteria, the PhoQ-PhoP system regulates the expression of a large collection of genes in response to conditions of low magnesium or to the presence of certain antimicrobial peptides. We measured transcription of four PhoP-regulated promoters in E. coli that have significantly different PhoP-binding sites. Surprisingly, three promoters show identical responses to magnesium concentrations that range over four orders of magnitude. By analyzing and testing a simple model of transcriptional regulation, we find an explanation for this puzzle and show that these promoters are indeed differentially regulated at sufficiently high levels of stimulus. We then use this analysis to infer an effective level of phosphorylated PhoP as a function of magnesium stimulus. Our results demonstrate that differential regulation generally depends on the strength of the stimulus and highlight how quantitative analysis of stimulus-response curves can be used to infer properties of cell regulatory circuits that cannot be easily obtained from in vitro measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16305-16310
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 9 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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