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Mol Biol Rep. 1979 May 31;5(1-2):5-28.

On pre-messenger RNA and transcriptions. A review.


From the present review integrating old and new data emerge a few principles of gene expression in eukaryotes, and an infinite variety of possible mechanistic details generating the overal pattern. The few principles, most of which are not fundamentally new, may thus be summarized. 1) The eukaryotic genome is subdivided into transcriptional units: into transcriptons which are subject to individual activation controlled at DNA level. 2) Viral genomes may contain one or a few transcriptons, while cells of multicellular organisms contain from 3 x 10(3) in diptera up to an estimated 2 x 10(5) in birds and mammals. 3) Transcriptons may include one or several coding sequences. 4) Transcriptons vary considerably in size: in mammals and birds their size spectrum falls into the 2,000 to 20,000 bp range. 5) Units of coding information constituting one message (genes) and, possibly, units of regulative information are frequently broken up and stored within the transcripton in sub-genic blocks (of so far unknown significance) in general located at a certain distance from the 5' and 3' transcript terminals which are determined by the promotor and terminator signals. 6) The gene, in its specific definition as the functional unit underlying the phenotype, is in general constituted posttranscriptionally by the processing mechanisms from the mosaic of its genomic subunits in the transcripton; segments of coding, service and regulative sequences are recombined within themselves and with each other, polygenic transcripts separate into their unit messages. 7) Activated transcriptons produce pre-mRNA; these primary transcripts are colinear with the DNA of the transcriptional unit. 8) Primary pre-mRNA is processed into secondary pre-mRNA's by extragenic cleavage and intragenic ("splicing") processing, giving rise stepwise to functional mRNA. During this process chemical modifications as methylation, 5'-terminal capping and 3'-terminal polyadenylation take place. 9) Translation yields either potentially functional polypeptides or polycistronic polyproteins subject to further processing. 10) Processing is a regulated process; it involves many of the possible phases and mechanisms of post-transcriptional regulation (cf. 39, 40).

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