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A Quantitative and High-Throughput Approach to Gene Regulation in Escherichia coli


Ireland, William Thornton (2020) A Quantitative and High-Throughput Approach to Gene Regulation in Escherichia coli. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/0sk3-hd69.


Measurements in biology have reached a level of precision that demands quantitative modeling. This is particularly true in the field of gene regulation, where concepts from physics such as thermodynamics have allowed for accurate models to be made.

Many issues remain. DNA sequencing is routine enough to sequence new genomes in days and cheap enough to use deep sequencing to perform precision measurements, but our ability to interpret the wealth of genomic data is lagging behind, especially in the realm of gene regulation. The primary reason is that we lack any information what so ever as to the basic regulatory details of approximately 65 percent of operons even in E. coli, the best understood organism in biology. As a result we cannot use our hard won modeling efforts to understand any of these operons.

This work takes steps to address these issues. First we use 30 LacI mutants as a test case to prove that we can make quantitatively accurate models of gene expression and sequence-dependent binding energies of transcription factors and RNA polymerase.

Next we note that much of the quantitative insight available on transcriptional regulation relies on work on only a few model regulatory systems such as LacI as was considered above. We develop an approach, through a combination of massively parallel reporter assays, mass spectrometry, and information-theoretic modeling that can be used to dissect bacterial promoters in a systematic and scalable way. We demonstrate that we can uncover a qualitative list of transcription factor binding sites as well as their associated quantitative details from both well-studied and previously uncharacterized promoters in E. coli.

Finally we extend the above method to over 100 E. coli promoters using over 12 growth conditions. We show the method recapitulates known regulatory information. Then, we examine regulatory architectures for more than 80 promoters which previously had no known regulation. In many cases, we identify which transcription factors mediate their regulation. The method introduced clears a path for fully characterizing the regulatory genome of E. coli and advances towards the goal of using this method on a wide variety of other organisms including other prokaryotes and eukaryotes such as Drosophila melanogaster.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Gene Regulation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Phillips, Robert B.
Thesis Committee:
  • Thomson, Matthew (chair)
  • Phillips, Robert B.
  • Roukes, Michael Lee
  • Orphan, Victoria J.
Defense Date:3 March 2020
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03262020-092455420
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription related to Chapter 2. related to Chapter 3. related to Chapter 4. related to Chapter 4.
Ireland, William Thornton0000-0003-0971-2904
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13664
Deposited By: William Ireland
Deposited On:12 May 2020 16:13
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:41

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