The inherent stochasticity of metabolism raises a critical question for understanding homeostasis: are cellular processes regulated in response to internal fluctuations? Here, we show that, in E. coli cells under constant external conditions, catabolic enzyme expression continuously responds to metabolic fluctuations. The underlying regulatory feedback is enabled by the cyclic AMP (cAMP) and cAMP receptor protein (CRP) system, which controls catabolic enzyme expression based on metabolite concentrations. Using single-cell microscopy, genetic constructs in which this feedback is disabled, and mathematical modeling, we show how fluctuations circulate through the metabolic and genetic network at sub-cell-cycle timescales. Modeling identifies four noise propagation modes, including one specific to CRP regulation. Together, these modes correctly predict noise circulation at perturbed cAMP levels. The cAMP-CRP system may thus have evolved to control internal metabolic fluctuations in addition to external growth conditions. We conjecture that second messengers may more broadly function to achieve cellular homeostasis.

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Springer Nature
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Cell Reports

Wehrens, M., Krah, L., Towbin, B., Hermsen, R., & Tans, S. (2023). The interplay between metabolic stochasticity and cAMP-CRP regulation in single E. coli cells. Cell Reports, 42(10), 113284: 1–23. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113284