Selective Gene Expression in Multigene Families from Yeast to Mammals

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Science's STKE  26 Oct 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 256, pp. re17
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2562004re17

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Exclusive gene expression, where only one member of a gene or gene cassette family is selected for expression, plays an important role in the establishment of cell identity in several biological systems. Here, we compare four such systems: mating-type switching in fission and budding yeast, where cells choose between expressing one of the two different mating-type cassettes, and immunoglobulin and odorant receptor gene expression in mammals, where the number of gene choices is substantially higher. The underlying mechanisms that establish this selective expression pattern in each system differ in almost every detail. In all four systems, once a successful gene activation event has taken place, a feedback mechanism affects the fate of the cell. In the mammalian systems, feedback is mediated by the expressed cell surface receptor to ensure monoallelic gene expression, whereas in the yeasts, the expressed gene cassette at the mating-type locus affects donor choice during the subsequent switching event.

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