Skip to Main Content



After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Explain that the many steps involved in the vectorial processes of gene expression, which range from targeted modulation of gene copy number, to gene rearrangement, to transcription, to mRNA processing and transport from the nucleus, to translation, to protein subcellular compartmentalization, to posttranslational modification and degradation, are all subject to regulatory control, both positive and negative. Changes in any, or multiple of these processes, can increase or decrease the amount and/or activity of the cognate gene product.

  • Appreciate that DNA-binding transcription factors, proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences that are physically linked to their target transcriptional promoter elements, can either activate or repress gene transcription.

  • Recognize that DNA-binding transcription factors are often modular proteins that are composed of structurally and functionally distinct domains, which can directly or indirectly control messenger RNA (mRNA) gene transcription, either through contacts with RNA polymerase and its cofactors, or through interactions with coregulators that modulate nucleosome structure, composition, and position via histone covalent modifications and/or nucleosome displacement.

  • Understand that nucleosome-directed regulatory events typically increase or decrease the accessibility of the underlying DNA such as enhancer or promoter sequences, although nucleosome modification can also create new binding sites for other coregulators.

  • Describe how the processes of gene transcription, RNA processing, and nuclear export of RNA are all coupled.


Organisms alter expression of genes in response to genetic developmental cues or programs, environmental challenges, or disease, by modulating the amount, the spatial, and/or the temporal patterns of gene expression. The mechanisms controlling gene expression have been studied in detail and often involve modulation of gene transcription. Control of transcription ultimately results from changes in the mode of interaction of specific regulatory molecules, usually proteins, with various regions of DNA in the regulated gene. Such interactions can either have a positive or negative effect on transcription. Transcription control can result in tissue-specific gene expression, and gene regulation can be influenced by a range of physiologic, biologic, environmental, and pharmacologic agents.

In addition to transcription level controls, gene expression can also be modulated by gene amplification, gene rearrangement, posttranscriptional modifications, RNA stabilization, translational control, protein modification, protein compartmentalization, and protein stabilization or degradation. Many of the mechanisms that control gene expression are used to respond to developmental cues, growth factors, hormones, environmental agents, and therapeutic drugs. Dysregulation of gene expression can lead to human disease. Thus, a molecular understanding of these processes will lead to development of therapeutics that can alter pathophysiologic mechanisms or inhibit the function or arrest the growth of pathogenic organisms.


The genetic information present in each normal somatic cell of a metazoan organism is practically identical. The genetically reproducible, hardwired exceptions are found in those few cells that have amplified or rearranged genes ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.