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Stochasticity in genetics and gene regulation

Van Heyningen, V; (2024) Stochasticity in genetics and gene regulation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 379 (1900) , Article 20230476. 10.1098/rstb.2023.0476. Green open access

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Abstract

Development from fertilized egg to functioning multi-cellular organism requires precision. There is no precision, and often no survival, without plasticity. Plasticity is conferred partly by stochastic variation, present inherently in all biological systems. Gene expression levels fluctuate ubiquitously through transcription, alternative splicing, translation and turnover. Small differences in gene expression are exploited to trigger early differentiation, conferring distinct function on selected individual cells and setting in motion regulatory interactions. Non-selected cells then acquire new functions along the spatio-temporal developmental trajectory. The differentiation process has many stochastic components. Meiotic segregation, mitochondrial partitioning, X-inactivation and the dynamic DNA binding of transcription factor assemblies - all exhibit randomness. Non-random X-inactivation generally signals deleterious X-linked mutations. Correct neural wiring, such as retina to brain, arises through repeated confirmatory activity of connections made randomly. In immune system development, both B-cell antibody generation and the emergence of balanced T-cell categories begin through stochastic trial and error followed by functional selection. Aberrant selection processes lead to immune dysfunction. DNA sequence variants also arise through stochastic events: some involving environmental fluctuation (radiation or presence of pollutants), or genetic repair system malfunction. The phenotypic outcome of mutations is also fluid. Mutations may be advantageous in some circumstances, deleterious in others. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Causes and consequences of stochastic processes in development and disease'.

Type: Article
Title: Stochasticity in genetics and gene regulation
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2023.0476
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2023.0476
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third-party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Developmental noise, differentiation, genetic mechanisms, stochastic events, Cell Differentiation, X Chromosome Inactivation, Transcription Factors, Alternative Splicing, Brain
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Ophthalmology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10189263
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