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What is gene expression?

Gene expression refers to the process of making proteins using the instructions from genes. Changes in gene expression can affect how much of a protein is made, as well as when the protein is made.

How is gene expression controlled?

There are three main levels of control for gene expression: transcription, processing, and translation levels. These controls may occur when DNA is being copied into messenger RNA, when messenger RNA is modified, and when proteins are formed. Controls may enhance, inhibit, modify, or change the frequency of these steps. Hormones, proteins, microRNA, and nutrition are some of the influences of gene expression. 

Do all cells of the body express the same genes?

Although all cells in the body contain the individual’s complete set of genes, our cells do not express every gene. Our bodies contain many specialized cells due to gene expression. In cells with specific purposes, certain genes will be expressed that may or may not be expressed in other cells. 

Why are gene expression controls so important?

Our body’s ability to control gene expression is crucial for adapting to our varying environment and creating specialized cells. Control signals tell our cells to create or inhibit gene products when needed, depending on environmental exposures, signals, and other stimuli. Gene regulation allows for cell differentiation, creating specialized cells within our bodies such as nerve cells and blood cells. 

Learn more about Gene Expression:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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