The influence of transcription factor competition on the relationship between occupancy and affinity

The influence of transcription factor competition on the relationship between occupancy and affinity

Nicolae Radu Zabet, Robert Foy, Boris Adryan
(Submitted on 27 Mar 2013)

Transcription factors (TFs) are proteins that bind to specific sites on the DNA and regulate gene activity. Identifying where TF molecules bind and how much time they spend on their target sites is key for understanding transcriptional regulation. It is usually assumed that the free energy of binding of a TF to the DNA (the affinity of the site) is highly correlated to the amount of time the TF remains bound (the occupancy of the site). However, knowing the binding energy is not sufficient to infer actual binding site occupancy. This mismatch between the occupancy predicted by the affinity and the observed occupancy may be caused by various factors, such as TF abundance, competition between TFs or the arrangement of the sites on the DNA. We investigated the relationship between the affinity of a TF for a set of binding sites and their occupancy. In particular, we considered the case of lac repressor (lacI) in E.coli and performed stochastic simulations of the TF dynamics on the DNA for various combinations of lacI abundance in competition with TFs that contribute to macromolecular crowding. Our results showed that for medium and high affinity sites, TF competition does not play a significant role in genomic occupancy, except in cases when the abundance of lacI is significantly increased or when a low-information content PWM was used. Nevertheless, for medium and low affinity sites, an increase in TF abundance (for both lacI or other molecules) leads to an increase in occupancy at several sites. Keywords: facilitated diffusion, Position Weight Matrix, thermodynamic equilibrium, motif information content, molecular crowding

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