In vivosingle-molecule kinetics of activation and subsequent activity of the arabinose promoter

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Using a single-RNA detection technique in liveEscherichia colicells, we measure, for each cell, the waiting time for the production of the first RNA under the control of PBADpromoter after induction by arabinose, and subsequent intervals between transcription events. We find that the kinetics of the arabinose intake system affect mean and diversity in RNA numbers, long after induction. We observed the same effect on Plac/ara-1promoter, which is inducible by arabinose or by IPTG. Importantly, the distribution of waiting times of Plac/ara-1is indistinguishable from that of PBAD, if and only if induced by arabinose alone. Finally, RNA production under the control of PBADis found to be a sub-Poissonian process. We conclude that inducer-dependent waiting times affect mean and cell-to-cell diversity in RNA numbers long after induction, suggesting that intake mechanisms have non-negligible effects on the phenotypic diversity of cell populations in natural, fluctuating environments.

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