Variation in gene expression is an essential material for biological diversity among single cells, individuals and populations or species. Here we show that expression variability is an intrinsic property that persists at those different levels. Each promoter seems to have a unique capacity to respond to external signals that can be environmental, genetic or even stochastic. Our investigation into nucleosome organization of variably responding promoters revealed a commonly positioned nucleosome at a critical regulatory region where most transcription start sites and TATA elements are located, a deviation from typical nucleosome-free status. The nucleotide sequences in this region of variable promoters showed a high propensity for DNA bending and a periodic distribution of particular dinucleotides, encoding preferences for DNA-nucleosome interaction. Variable expression is likely to occur during removal of this nucleosome for gene activation. This is a unique example of how promoter sequences intrinsically encode regulatory flexibility, which is vital for biological processes such as adaptation, development and evolution.
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