A Comparison of Bacterial and Eukaryotic Gene Control
Now that we have considered the major types of gene regulation, let's review some of the similarities and differences of bacterial and eukaryotic gene control.
1. Much of gene regulation in both bacterial and eukaryotic cells is accomplished through proteins that bind to specific sequences in DNA. Regulatory proteins come in a variety of types, but most can be characterized according to a small set of DNA-binding motifs.
2. Regulatory proteins that affect transcription exhibit two basic types of control: repressors inhibit transcription (negative control); activators stimulate transcription (positive control). Both negative control and positive control are found in bacterial and eukaryotic cells.
3. Complex biochemical and developmental events in bacterial and eukaryotic cells may require a cascade of gene regulation, in which the activation of one set of genes stimulates the activation of another set.
4. Most gene regulation in bacterial cells is at the level of transcription (although it does exist at other levels). Gene regulation in eukaryotic cells often takes place at multiple levels, including chromatin structure, transcription, mRNA processing, and RNA stability.
5. In bacterial cells, genes are often clustered in operons and are coordinately expressed by transcription into a single mRNA molecule. In contrast, each eukaryotic gene typically has its own promoter and is transcribed independently. Coordinate regulation in eukaryotic cells takes place through common response elements, present in the promoters and enhancers of the genes. Different genes that have the same response element in common are influenced by the same regulatory protein.
6. Chromatin structure plays a role in eukaryotic (but not bacterial) gene regulation. In general, condensed chromatin represses gene expression; chromatin structure must be altered before transcription. Acetylation of the histone proteins, which may be influenced by the degree of DNA methylation, appears to be important in bringing about these changes in chromatin structure.
7. The initiation of transcription is a relatively simple process in bacterial cells, and regulatory proteins function by blocking or stimulating the binding of RNA polymerase to DNA. Eukaryotic transcription requires complex machinery that includes RNA polymerase, general transcription factors, and transcriptional activators, which allows transcription to be influenced by multiple factors.
8. Some eukaryotic transcriptional activator proteins function at a distance from the gene by binding to enhancers, causing a loop in the DNA, and bringing the promoter and enhancer into close proximity. Some distant-acting sequences analogous to enhancers have been described in bacterial cells, but they appear to be less common.
9. The greater time lag between transcription and translation in eukaryotic cells than in bacterial cells allows mRNA stability and mRNA processing to play larger roles in eukaryotic gene regulation.
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