Photosynthetic (PS) gene expression in Rhodobacter sphaeroides is regulated in response to changes in light and redox conditions mainly by PrrB/A, FnrL and AppA/PpsR systems. The PrrB/A and FnrL systems activate the expression of them under anaerobic conditions while the AppA/PpsR system represses them under aerobic conditions. Recently, two mathematical models have been developed for the AppA/PpsR system and demonstrated how the interaction between AppA and PpsR could lead to a phenotype in which PS genes are repressed under semi-aerobic conditions. These models have also predicted that the transition from aerobic to anaerobic growth mode could occur via a bistable regime. However, they lack experimentally quantifiable inputs and outputs. Here, we extend one of them to include such quantities and combine all relevant micro-array data publically available for a PS gene of this bacterium and use that to parameterise the model. In addition, we hypothesise that the AppA/PpsR system alone might account for the observed trend of PS gene expression under semi-aerobic conditions.
Our extended model of the AppA/PpsR system includes the biological input of atmospheric oxygen concentration and an output of photosynthetic gene expression. Following our hypothesis that the AppA/PpsR system alone is sufficient to describe the overall trend of PS gene expression we parameterise the model and suggest that the rate of AppA reduction in vivo should be faster than its oxidation. Also, we show that despite both the reduced and oxidised forms of PpsR binding to the PS gene promoters in vitro, binding of the oxidised form as a repressor alone is sufficient to reproduce the observed PS gene expression pattern. Finally, the combination of model parameters which fit the biological data well are broadly consistent with those which were previously determined to be required for the system to show (i) the repression of PS genes under semi-aerobic conditions, and (ii) bistability.
We found that despite at least three pathways being involved in the regulation of photosynthetic genes, the AppA/PpsR system alone is capable of accounting for the observed trends in photosynthetic gene expression seen at different oxygen levels.