"Combined multiple transcriptional repression mechanisms generate ultrasensitivity and robust oscillations"
Transcriptional repression can occur via various mechanisms, such as blocking, sequestration and displacement. For instance, the repressors can hold the activators to prevent binding with DNA or can bind to the DNA-bound activators to block their transcriptional activity. Although the transcription can be completely suppressed with a single mechanism, multiple repression mechanisms are used together to inhibit transcriptional activators in many systems, such as circadian clocks and NF-κB oscillators. This raises the question of what advantages arise if seemingly redundant repression mechanisms are combined. Here, by deriving equations describing the multiple repression mechanisms, we find that their combination can synergistically generate a sharply ultrasensitive transcription response and thus strong oscillations. This rationalizes why the multiple repression mechanisms are used together in various biological oscillators. The critical role of such combined transcriptional repression for strong oscillations is further supported by our analysis of formerly identified mutations disrupting the transcriptional repression of the mammalian circadian clock. The hitherto unrecognized source of the ultrasensitivity, the combined transcriptional repression, can lead to robust synthetic oscillators with a previously unachievable simple design.
Additional authors: Yun Min Song, Department of Mathematical Sciences, KAIST and Biomedical Mathematics Group, Institute for Basic Science (IBS); Jae Kyoung Kim, Department of Mathematical Sciences, KAIST and Biomedical Mathematics Group, Institute for Basic Science (IBS)