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An Endogenous Accelerator for Viral Gene Expression Confers a Fitness Advantage

Mathematical Biology

Speaker: Leor Weinberger, UCSF
Location: 1147 MSB
Start time: Mon, Dec 3 2012, 2:10PM

Many signaling circuits face a fundamental tradeoff between accelerating their response speed while maintaining final levels below a cytotoxic threshold. I will describe a transcriptional circuitry that dynamically converts signaling inputs into faster rates without amplifying final equilibrium levels. Using time-lapse microscopy, we find that transcriptional activators accelerate human cytomegalovirus (CMV) gene expression in single cells without amplifying steady-state expression levels, and this acceleration generates a significant replication advantage. We map the accelerator to a highly self-cooperative transcriptional negative-feedback loop (Hill coefficient = 7) generated by homo-multimerization of the virus's essential transactivator protein IE2 at nuclear PML bodies. Eliminating the IE2-accelerator circuit reduces transcriptional strength through mislocalization of incoming viral genomes away from PML bodies and carries a heavy fitness cost. In general, accelerators may provide a mechanism for signal-transduction circuits to respond quickly to external signals without increasing steady-state levels of potentially cytotoxic molecules.