Transcriptional regulation

Regulation of transcription controls when transcription occurs and how much RNA is created. Transcription of a gene by RNA polymerase can be regulated by at least five mechanisms:
Specificity factors alter the specificity of RNA polymerase for a given promoter or set of promoters, making it more or less likely to bind to them (i.e. sigma factors used in prokaryotic transcription).
Repressors bind to non-coding sequences on the DNA strand that are close to or overlapping the promoter region, impeding RNA polymerase's progress along the strand, thus impeding the expression of the gene.
General transcription factors These transcription factors position RNA polymerase at the start of a protein-coding sequence and then release the polymerase to transcribe the mRNA.
Activators enhance the interaction between RNA polymerase and a particular promoter, encouraging the expression of the gene. Activators do this by increasing the attraction of RNA polymerase for the promoter, through interactions with subunits of the RNA polymerase or indirectly by changing the structure of the DNA.
Enhancers are sites on the DNA helix that are bound to by activators in order to loop the DNA bringing a specific promoter to the initiation complex.
Silencers are regions of DNA that are bound by transcription factors in order to silence gene expression. The mechanism is very similar to that of enhancers.

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