Spatially coordinated dynamic gene transcription in living pituitary tissue

Karen Featherstone, Kirsty Hey, Hiroshi Momiji, Anne Mcnamara, Amanda Patist, Joanna Woodburn, David Spiller, Helen C. Christian, Alan S. McNeilly, John J. Mullins, Barbel F. Finkenstädt, David A. Rand, Michael White, Julian Davis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Transcription at individual genes in single cells is often pulsatile and stochastic. A key question emerges regarding how this behaviour contributes to tissue phenotype, but it has been a challenge to quantitatively analyse this in living cells over time, as opposed to studying snap-shots of gene expression state. We have used imaging of reporter gene expression to track transcription in living pituitary tissue. We integrated live-cell imaging data with statistical modelling for quantitative real-time estimation of the timing of switching between transcriptional states across a whole tissue. Multiple levels of transcription rate were identified, indicating that gene expression is not a simple binary ‘on-off’ process. Immature tissue displayed shorter durations of high-expressing states than the adult. In adult pituitary tissue, direct cell contacts involving gap junctions allowed local spatial coordination of prolactin gene expression. Our findings identify how heterogeneous transcriptional dynamics of single cells may contribute to overall tissue behaviour.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere08494
    Number of pages25
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


    • Transcription Dynamics, Spatial Organisation, Stochastic Modelling, Live-Cell Microscopy, Pituitary


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