Experiments by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers have revealed it might be possible for randomness in gene expression to lead to differences in cells — or people, for that matter — that are genetically identical.
The researchers, HHMI investigator Erin K. OShea and colleague Jonathan M. Raser, both at the University of California, San Francisco, published their findings May 27, 2004, in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.
According to OShea, the original notion that random noise in gene expression — the processes by which proteins are synthesized from the information contained in DNA — arose from a paradox. “While processes such as gene expression involved in the development of organisms proceed in a very orderly fashion, paradoxically, they depend on chemical reactions that are inherently probabilistic, like flipping a coin,” said OShea. “And since these processes involve small numbers of molecules, they should be significantly affected by chance, just as flipping a coin a few times will be more heavily affected than flipping it many times.”
Jim Keeley | HHMI
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