Synthetic circuit identifies subpopulations with sustained memory of DNA damage
Devin R. Burrill and Pamela A. Silver
Genes & Dev. 2011. 25: 434-439 doi: 10.1101/gad.1994911
Differential responses to stimuli can affect how cells succumb to disease. In yeast, DNA damage can create heterogeneous responses. To delineate how a response contributes to a cell’s future behavior, we constructed a transcription-based memory circuit that detects DNA repair to isolate subpopulations with heritable damage responses. Strongly responsive cells show multigenerational effects, including growth defects and iron-associated gene expression. Less-responsive cells exhibit increased mutation frequencies but resume wild-type behavior. These two subpopulations remain distinct for multiple generations, indicating a transmissible memory of damage. Collectively, this work demonstrates the efficacy of using synthetic biology to define how environmental exposure contributes to distinct cell fates.