Temperature-dependence of the single-cell variability in the kinetics of transcription activation in Escherichia coli

Nadia S. M. Goncalves, Sofia Startceva, Cristina S. D. Palma, Mohamed N. M. Bahrudeen, Samuel M. D. Oliveira, André S. Ribeiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


From in vivo single-cell, single-RNA measurements of the activation times and subsequent steady-state active transcription kinetics of a single-copy Lac-ara-1 promoter in Escherichia coli, we characterize the intake kinetics of the inducer (IPTG) from the media, following temperature shifts. For this, for temperature shifts of various degrees, we obtain the distributions of transcription activation times as well as the distributions of intervals between consecutive RNA productions following activation in individual cells. We then propose a novel methodology that makes use of deconvolution techniques to extract the mean and the variability of the distribution of intake times. We find that cells, following shifts to low temperatures, have higher intake times, although, counter-intuitively, the cell-to-cell variability of these times is lower. We validate the results using a new methodology for direct estimation of mean intake times from measurements of activation times at various inducer concentrations. The results confirm that E. coli's inducer intake times from the environment are significantly higher following a shift to a sub-optimal temperature. Finally, we provide evidence that this is likely due to the emergence of additional rate-limiting steps in the intake process at low temperatures, explaining the reduced cell-to-cell variability in intake times.

Original languageEnglish
Article number026007
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • critically low temperatures
  • Escherichia coli
  • gene expression activation times
  • single-cell intake kinetics


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