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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.19.541501

Quantifying dynamic pro-inflammatory gene expression and heterogeneity in single macrophage cells

B.Naigles A. Narla J. Soroczynski L. Tsimring N. Hao
Macrophages must respond appropriately to pathogens and other pro-inflammatory stimuli in order to perform their roles in fighting infection. One way in which inflammatory stimuli can vary is in their dynamics - that is, the amplitude and duration of stimulus experienced by the cell. In this study, we performed long-term live cell imaging in a microfluidic device to investigate how the pro-inflammatory genes IRF1, CXCL10, and CXCL9 respond to dynamic interferon-gamma (IFN{gamma}) stimulation. We found that IRF1 responds to low concentration or short duration IFN{gamma} stimulation, whereas CXCL10 and CXCL9 require longer or higher-concentration stimulation to be expressed. We also investigated the heterogeneity in the expression of each gene and found that CXCL10 and CXCL9 have substantial cell-to-cell variability. In particular, the expression of CXCL10 appears to be largely stochastic with a subpopulation of non-responding cells across all the stimulation conditions tested. We developed both deterministic and stochastic models for the expression of each gene. Our modeling analysis revealed that the heterogeneity in CXCL10 can be attributed to a slow chromatin-opening step that is on a similar timescale to that of adaptation of the upstream signal. In this way, CXCL10 expression in individual cells can remain stochastic in response to each pulse of repeated simulations, as validated by experiments. Together, we conclude that pro-inflammatory genes in the same signaling pathway can respond to dynamic IFN{gamma} stimulus with very different response features and that upstream signal adaptation can contribute to shaping the features of heterogeneous gene expression.