• Functional modules of sigma factor regulons guarantee adaptability and evolvability.

      Binder, Sebastian C; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Schulz, Sebastian; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Franke, Raimo; Häussler, Susanne; Müller, A; Helmholtz Centre for infection research (HZI), Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
      The focus of modern molecular biology turns from assigning functions to individual genes towards understanding the expression and regulation of complex sets of molecules. Here, we provide evidence that alternative sigma factor regulons in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa largely represent insulated functional modules which provide a critical level of biological organization involved in general adaptation and survival processes. Analysis of the operational state of the sigma factor network revealed that transcription factors functionally couple the sigma factor regulons and significantly modulate the transcription levels in the face of challenging environments. The threshold quality of newly evolved transcription factors was reached faster and more robustly in in silico testing when the structural organization of sigma factor networks was taken into account. These results indicate that the modular structures of alternative sigma factor regulons provide P. aeruginosa with a robust framework to function adequately in its environment and at the same time facilitate evolutionary change. Our data support the view that widespread modularity guarantees robustness of biological networks and is a key driver of evolvability.