Summary
A regulatory sequence is a segment of a nucleic acid molecule which is capable of increasing or decreasing the expression of specific genes within an organism. Regulation of gene expression is an essential feature of all living organisms and viruses. In DNA, regulation of gene expression normally happens at the level of RNA biosynthesis (transcription). It is accomplished through the sequence-specific binding of proteins (transcription factors) that activate or inhibit transcription. Transcription factors may act as activators, repressors, or both. Repressors often act by preventing RNA polymerase from forming a productive complex with the transcriptional initiation region (promoter), while activators facilitate formation of a productive complex. Furthermore, DNA motifs have been shown to be predictive of epigenomic modifications, suggesting that transcription factors play a role in regulating the epigenome. In RNA, regulation may occur at the level of protein biosynthesis (translation), RNA cleavage, RNA splicing, or transcriptional termination. Regulatory sequences are frequently associated with messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, where they are used to control mRNA biogenesis or translation. A variety of biological molecules may bind to the RNA to accomplish this regulation, including proteins (e.g., translational repressors and splicing factors), other RNA molecules (e.g., miRNA) and small molecules, in the case of riboswitches. A regulatory DNA sequence does not regulate unless it is activated. Different regulatory sequences are activated and then implement their regulation by different mechanisms. Expression of genes in mammals can be upregulated when signals are transmitted to the promoters associated with the genes. Cis-regulatory DNA sequences that are located in DNA regions distant from the promoters of genes can have very large effects on gene expression, with some genes undergoing up to 100-fold increased expression due to such a cis-regulatory sequence. These cis-regulatory sequences include enhancers, silencers, insulators and tethering elements.
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