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Trends Cell Biol. 2010 Dec;20(12):723-33. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2010.07.002.

Transcription by the numbers redux: experiments and calculations that surprise.

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Department of Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


The study of transcription has witnessed an explosion of quantitative effort both experimentally and theoretically. In this article we highlight some of the exciting recent experimental efforts in the study of transcription with an eye to the demands that such experiments put on theoretical models of transcription. From a modeling perspective, we focus on two broad classes of models: the so-called thermodynamic models that use statistical mechanics to reckon the level of gene expression as probabilities of promoter occupancy, and rate-equation treatments that focus on the temporal evolution of the activity of a given promoter and that make it possible to compute the distributions of messenger RNA and proteins. We consider several appealing case studies to illustrate how quantitative models have been used to dissect transcriptional regulation.

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