The Cost of Protein Production

Moshe Kafri, Eyal Metzl-Raz, Ghil Jona, Naama Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The economy of protein production is central to cell physiology, being intimately linked with cell division rate and cell size. Attempts to model cellular physiology are limited by the scarcity of experimental data defining the molecular processes limiting protein expression. Here, we distinguish the relative contribution of gene transcription and protein translation to the slower proliferation of budding yeast producing excess levels of unneeded proteins. In contrast to widely held assumptions, rapidly growing cells are not universally limited by ribosome content. Rather, transcription dominates cost under some conditions (e.g., low phosphate), translation in others (e.g., low nitrogen), and both in other conditions (e.g., rich media). Furthermore, cells adapted to enforced protein production by becoming larger and increasing their endogenous protein levels, suggesting limited competition for common resources. We propose that rapidly growing cells do not exhaust their resources to maximize growth but maintain sufficient reserves to accommodate changing requirements. Kafri et al. investigate the processes that limit protein production. They find that enforcing either gene transcription or protein translation reduces growth rate, depending on growth conditions. Cells adapt by increasing their size and endogenous proteome content, suggesting that rapidly growing cells are not resource limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-31
Number of pages10
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 Jan 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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