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Mailing Address:
The Robert H. Smith Institute of
Plant Sciences and Genetics
in Agriculture
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Administrator: Neomi Maimon 
Tel: 972-8-948-9251,
Fax: 972-8-948-9899,
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Director: Prof. David Weiss
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Publications

2020
Grah, R. ; Friedlander, T. The relation between crosstalk and gene regulation form revisited. PLOS Computational Biology 2020, 16, 1-24. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Author summary Genes differ in the frequency at which they are expressed and in the form of regulation used to control their activity. The basic level of regulation is mediated by different types of DNA-binding proteins, where each type regulates particular gene(s). We distinguish between two basic forms of regulation: positive—if a gene is activated by the binding of its regulatory protein, and negative—if it is active unless bound by its regulatory protein. Due to the multitude of genes and regulators, spurious binding and unbinding events, called “crosstalk”, could occur. How does the form of regulation, positive or negative, affect the extent of regulatory crosstalk? To address this question, we used a mathematical model integrating many genes and many regulators. As intuition suggests, we found that in most of the parameter space, crosstalk increased with the availability of regulators. We propose, that crosstalk is usually reduced when networks are designed such that minimal regulation is needed, which we call the ‘idle’ design. In other words: a frequently needed gene will use negative regulation and conversely, a scarcely needed gene will employ positive regulation. In both cases, the requirement for the regulators is minimized. In addition, we demonstrate how crosstalk can be calculated from available datasets and discuss the technical challenges in such calculation, specifically data incompleteness.
2017
Friedlander, T. ; Prizak, R. ; Barton, N. H. ; Tkačik, G. Evolution of new regulatory functions on biophysically realistic fitness landscapes. Nat Commun 2017, 8 216.Abstract
Gene expression is controlled by networks of regulatory proteins that interact specifically with external signals and DNA regulatory sequences. These interactions force the network components to co-evolve so as to continually maintain function. Yet, existing models of evolution mostly focus on isolated genetic elements. In contrast, we study the essential process by which regulatory networks grow: the duplication and subsequent specialization of network components. We synthesize a biophysical model of molecular interactions with the evolutionary framework to find the conditions and pathways by which new regulatory functions emerge. We show that specialization of new network components is usually slow, but can be drastically accelerated in the presence of regulatory crosstalk and mutations that promote promiscuous interactions between network components.Gene networks evolve by transcription factor (TF) duplication and divergence of their binding site specificities, but little is known about the global constraints at play. Here, the authors study the coevolution of TFs and binding sites using a biophysical-evolutionary approach, and show that the emerging complex fitness landscapes strongly influence regulatory evolution with a role for crosstalk.
2016
Friedlander, T. ; Prizak, R. ; Guet, C. C. ; Barton, N. H. ; Tkačik, G. Intrinsic limits to gene regulation by global crosstalk. 2016, 7 12307. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Gene regulation relies on the specificity of transcription factor (TF)–DNA interactions. Limited specificity may lead to crosstalk: a regulatory state in which a gene is either incorrectly activated due to noncognate TF–DNA interactions or remains erroneously inactive. As each TF can have numerous interactions with noncognate cis-regulatory elements, crosstalk is inherently a global problem, yet has previously not been studied as such. We construct a theoretical framework to analyse the effects of global crosstalk on gene regulation. We find that crosstalk presents a significant challenge for organisms with low-specificity TFs, such as metazoans. Crosstalk is not easily mitigated by known regulatory schemes acting at equilibrium, including variants of cooperativity and combinatorial regulation. Our results suggest that crosstalk imposes a previously unexplored global constraint on the functioning and evolution of regulatory networks, which is qualitatively distinct from the known constraints that act at the level of individual gene regulatory elements.