Escherichia coli is able to shift between anaerobic and aerobic metabolism by adapting its gene expression, e.g., of metabolic genes, to the new environment. The dynamics of gene expression that result from environmental shifts are limited, amongst others, by the time needed for regulation and transcription elongation. In this study, we examined gene expression dynamics after an anaerobic-to-aerobic shift on a short time scale (0.5, 1, 2, 5, and 10 min) by RNA sequencing with emphasis on delay times and transcriptional elongation rates (TER). Transient expression patterns and timing of differential expression, characterized by delay and elongation, were identified as key features of the dataset. Gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed early upregulation of respiratory and iron-related gene sets. We inferred specific TERs of 89 operons with a mean TER of 42.0 nt/s and mean delay time of 22.4 s. TERs correlate with sequence features, such as codon bias, whereas delay times correlate with the involvement of regulators. The presented data illustrate that at very short times after a shift in oxygenation, extensional changes of the transcriptome, such as temporary responses, can be observed. Besides regulation, TERs contribute to the dynamics of gene expression.

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