Define the term regulation as it applies to genes
For a cell to function properly, necessary proteins must be synthesized at the proper time. All cells control or regulate the synthesis of proteins from information encoded in their DNA. The process of turning on a gene to produce RNA and protein is called gene expression. Whether in a simple unicellular organism or a complex multi-cellular organism, each cell controls when and how its genes are expressed. For this to occur, there must be a mechanism to control when a gene is expressed to make RNA and protein, how much of the protein is made, and when it is time to stop making that protein because it is no longer needed.
The regulation of gene expression conserves energy and space. It would require a significant amount of energy for an organism to express every gene at all times, so it is more energy efficient to turn on the genes only when they are required. In addition, only expressing a subset of genes in each cell saves space because DNA must be unwound from its tightly coiled structure to transcribe and translate the DNA. Cells would have to be enormous if every protein were expressed in every cell all the time.
The control of gene expression is extremely complex. Malfunctions in this process are detrimental to the cell and can lead to the development of many diseases, including cancer.
What You’ll Learn to Do
- Discuss why every cell does not express all of its genes
- Compare prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene regulation
The learning activities for this section include the following:
- Expression of Genes
- Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Gene Regulation
- Self Check: Regulation of Gene Expression