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Behind the Scenes of Gene Expression

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Science  10 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5532, pp. 1064-1067
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5532.1064

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Summary

As the units of DNA that define the proteins needed for life, genes have played biology's center stage for decades. But work over the past few years shows that gene expression is not determined solely by the DNA code itself but by an assortment of proteins and, sometimes, RNAs that tell the genes when and where to turn on or off. Such epigenetic phenomena orchestrate the many changes through which a single fertilized egg cell turns into a complex organism. And throughout life, they enable cells to respond to environmental signals conveyed by hormones, growth factors, and other regulatory molecules without having to alter the DNA itself.

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