Gene expression analysis is a widely used and powerful method for investigating the transcriptional behavior of biological systems, for classifying cell states in disease, and for many other purposes. Recent studies indicate that common assumptions currently embedded in experimental and analytical practices can lead to misinterpretation of global gene expression data. We discuss these assumptions and describe solutions that should minimize erroneous interpretation of gene expression data from multiple analysis platforms.
Transcription, translation and subsequent protein modification represent the transfer of genetic information from the archival copy of DNA to the short-lived messenger RNA, usually with subsequent production of protein. Although all cells in an organism contain essentially the same DNA, cell types and functions differ because of qualitative and quantitative differences in their gene expression. Thus, control of gene expression is at the heart of differentiation and development. Epigenetic processes, including DNA methylation, histone modification and various RNA-mediated processes, are thought to influence gene expression chiefly at the level of transcription; however, other steps in the process (for example, translation) may also be regulated epigenetically. The following paper will outline the role epigenetics is believed to have in influencing gene expression. Heredity (2010) 105, 4-13; doi:10.1038/hdy.2010.54; published online 12 May 2010
Highlights • Kinetoplastids do not control transcription of individual protein-coding genes. • mRNAs are made from polycistronic precursors by trans splicing and polyadenylation. • Nuclear mRNA processing competes with precursor degradation. • RNA-binding proteins control mRNA processing, translation and decay. • Every mRNA can bind many different proteins, which may compete or cooperate.
Over 100 types of chemical modifications have been identified in cellular RNAs. While the 5′ cap modification and the poly(A) tail of eukaryotic mRNA play key roles in regulation, internal modifications are gaining attention for their roles in mRNA metabolism. The most abundant internal mRNA modification is -methyladenosine (m A), and identification of proteins that install, recognize, and remove this and other marks have revealed roles for mRNA modification in nearly every aspect of the mRNA life cycle, as well as in various cellular, developmental, and disease processes. Abundant noncoding RNAs such as tRNAs, rRNAs, and spliceosomal RNAs are also heavily modified and depend on the modifications for their biogenesis and function. Our understanding of the biological contributions of these different chemical modifications is beginning to take shape, but it’s clear that in both coding and noncoding RNAs, dynamic modifications represent a new layer of control of genetic information. Post-transcriptional modification of mRNAs and noncoding RNAs introduces a layer of control over stability and function that shapes the functional proteome.