Gene expression analysis is most simply described as the study of the way genes are transcribed to synthesize functional gene products — functional RNA species or protein products. The study of gene regulation provides insights into normal cellular processes, such as differentiation, and abnormal or pathological processes.
Related Topics: Gene Cloning and Analysis, Mutational Analysis, Epigenetics and Chromatin Structure, and Nucleic Acid Analysis
Gene expression workflow.
Researchers may perform gene expression analysis at any one of several different levels at which gene expression is regulated: transcriptional, post-transcriptional, translational, and post-translationalprotein modification.
Transcription, the process of creating a complementary RNA copy of a DNA sequence, can be regulated in a variety of ways. Transcriptional regulation processes are the most commonly studied and manipulated in typical gene expression analysis experiments.
The binding of regulatory proteins to DNA binding sites is the most direct method by which transcription is naturally modulated. Alternatively, regulatory processes can also interact with the transcriptional machinery of a cell. More recently, the influence of epigenetic regulation, such as the effect of variable DNA methylation on gene expression, has been uncovered as a powerful tool for gene expression profiling. Varying degrees of methylation are known to affect chromatin folding and strongly affect accessibility of genes to active transcription.
Following transcription, eukaryotic RNA is typically spliced to remove noncoding intron sequences and capped with a poly(A) tail. At this post-transcriptional level, RNA stability has a significant effect on functional gene expression, that is, the production of functional protein. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) consists of double-stranded nucleic acid molecules that are participants in the RNA interference pathway, in which the expression of specific genes is modulated (typically by decreasing activity). Precisely how this modulation is accomplished is not yet fully understood. A growing field of gene expression analysis is in the area of microRNAs (miRNAs), short RNA molecules that also act as eukaryotic post-transcriptional regulators and gene silencing agents.
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Researchers studying gene expression employ a wide variety of molecular biology techniques and experimental methods. Gene expression analysis studies can be broadly divided into four areas: RNA expression, promoter analysis, protein expression, and post-translational modification.
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