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EMBO Rep. 2012 Apr 2;13(4):313-21. doi: 10.1038/embor.2012.31.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Transcription is a complex process that integrates the state of the cell and its environment to generate adequate responses for cell fitness and survival. Recent microscopy experiments have been able to monitor transcription from single genes in individual cells. These observations have revealed two striking features: transcriptional activity can vary markedly from one cell to another, and is subject to large changes over time, sometimes within minutes. How the chromatin structure, transcription machinery assembly and signalling networks generate such patterns is still unclear. In this review, we present the techniques used to investigate transcription from single genes, introduce quantitative modelling tools, and discuss transcription mechanisms and their implications for gene expression regulation.

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