Nan Hao, Harvard
Dynamic signal processing by transcription factors
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University
Many transcription factors display diverse activation dynamics in response to various external stimuli. We used a combination of biological, engineering and computational approaches to explore how transcription factors process signaling inputs to generate diverse dynamic responses and how this dynamic information of transcription factor activation is decoded to produce distinct changes in gene expression. We found that the modular design of a natural transcription factor gives rise to tunable signal processing functions that enables tracking, filtering or integrating of signals in an input-dependent manner. This versatile signal processing capability is crucial for generating diverse activation dynamics, which can be further decoded by target promoters to initiate gene expression responses. These findings reveal how complex signal processing functions are integrated into a single molecule and provide a guide for the design of transcription factors with “programmable” signal processing functions.