Eukaryotic Epigenetic Gene Regulation

Section Summary

In eukaryotic cells, the first stage of gene-expression control occurs at the epigenetic level. Epigenetic mechanisms control access to the chromosomal region to allow genes to be turned on or off. Chromatin remodeling controls how DNA is packed into the nucleus by regulating how tightly the DNA is wound around histone proteins. The DNA itself may be methylated to selectively silence genes. The addition or removal of chemical modifications (or flags) to histone proteins or DNA signals the cell to open or close a chromosomal region. Therefore, eukaryotic cells can control whether a gene is expressed by controlling accessibility to the binding of RNA polymerase and its transcription factors.