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Global Network Reorganization During Dynamic Adaptations of Bacillus subtilis Metabolism

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Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1099-1103
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206871

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Acquisition and analysis of large data sets promises to move us toward a greater understanding of the mechanisms by which biological systems are dynamically regulated to respond to external cues. Now, two papers explore the responses of a bacterium to changing nutritional conditions (see the Perspective by Chalancon et al.). Nicolas et al. (p. 1103) measured transcriptional regulation for more than 100 different conditions. Greater amounts of antisense RNA were generated than expected and appeared to be produced by alternative RNA polymerase targeting subunits called sigma factors. One transition, from malate to glucose as the primary nutrient, was studied in more detail by Buescher et al. (p. 1099) who monitored RNA abundance, promoter activity in live cells, protein abundance, and absolute concentrations of intracellular and extracellular metabolites. In this case, the bacteria responded rapidly and largely without transcriptional changes to life on malate, but only slowly adapted to use glucose, a shift that required changes in nearly half the transcription network. These data offer an initial understanding of why certain regulatory strategies may be favored during evolution of dynamic control systems.