Publication Date



Biophysical Journal


cAMP-response element binding (CREB) proteins are involved in transcriptional regulation in a number of cellular processes (e.g., neural plasticity and circadian rhythms). The CREB family contains activators and repressors that may interact through positive and negative feedback loops. These loops can be generated by auto- and cross-regulation of expression of CREB proteins, via CRE elements in or near their genes. Experiments suggest that such feedback loops may operate in several systems (e.g., Aplysia and rat). To understand the functional implications of such feedback loops, which are interlocked via cross-regulation of transcription, a minimal model with a positive and negative loop was developed and investigated using bifurcation analysis. Bifurcation analysis revealed diverse nonlinear dynamics (e.g., bistability and oscillations). The stability of steady states or oscillations could be changed by time delays in the synthesis of the activator (CREB1) or the repressor (CREB2). Investigation of stochastic fluctuations due to small numbers of molecules of CREB1 and CREB2 revealed a bimodal distribution of CREB molecules in the bistability region. The robustness of the stable HIGH and LOW states of CREB expression to stochastic noise differs, and a critical number of molecules was required to sustain the HIGH state for days or longer. Increasing positive feedback or decreasing negative feedback also increased the lifetime of the HIGH state, and persistence of this state may correlate with long-term memory formation. A critical number of molecules was also required to sustain robust oscillations of CREB expression. If a steady state was near a deterministic Hopf bifurcation point, stochastic resonance could induce oscillations. This comparative analysis of deterministic and stochastic dynamics not only provides insights into the possible dynamics of CREB regulatory motifs, but also demonstrates a framework for understanding other regulatory processes with similar network architecture.


CREB-Binding Protein, Computer Simulation, Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein, Feedback, Gene Expression Regulation, Models, Biological, Signal Transduction, Transcription, Genetic



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