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6: Regulation of Gene Expression

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  • Within most multicellular organisms, every cell contains essentially the same genomic sequence. How then do cells develop and function differently from each other? The answer lies in the regulation of gene expression. Only a subset of all the genes is expressed (i.e. are functionally active) in any given cell participating in a particular biological process. Gene expression is regulated at many different steps along the process that converts DNA information into active proteins. In the first stage, transcript abundance can be controlled by regulating the rate of transcription initiation and processing, as well as the degradation of transcripts. In many cases, higher abundance of a gene’s transcripts is correlated with its increased expression. In this chapter, we will focus on transcriptional regulation. Prokaryotes and other unicellular organisms regulate genes too, changes in temperature or chemicals in the environment can require changing what proteins are produced at certain times. Cells also regulate the overall activity of genes in other ways. For example, by controlling the rate of mRNA translation, processing, and degradation, as well as the post-translational modification of proteins and protein complexes.

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