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Blood. 2000 Oct 1;96(7):2323-8.

Probability in transcriptional regulation and its implications for leukocyte differentiation and inducible gene expression.

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  • 1Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology/Parasitology and the Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.


The phenotype of individual hematopoietic cells, like all other differentiated mammalian cells, is determined by selective transcription of a subset of the genes encoded within the genome. This overview summarizes the recent evidence that transcriptional regulation at the level of individual cells is best described in terms of the regulation of the probability of transcription rather than the rate. In this model, heterogeneous gene expression among populations of cells arises by chance, and the degree of heterogeneity is a function of the stability of the mRNA and protein products of individual genes. The probabilistic nature of transcriptional regulation provides one explanation for stochastic phenomena, such as stem cell lineage commitment, and monoallelic expression of inducible genes, such as lymphokines and cytokines.

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