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Transcriptional interference networks coordinate the expression of functionally related genes clustered in the same genomic loci

Frontiers in Genetics
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00122
  • Genetics
  • Hypothesis & Theory Article
  • Biology


The regulation of gene expression is essential for normal functioning of biological systems in every form of life. Gene expression is primarily controlled at the level of transcription, especially at the phase of initiation. Non-coding RNAs are one of the major players at every level of genetic regulation, including the control of chromatin organization, transcription, various post-transcriptional processes, and translation. In this study, the Transcriptional Interference Network (TIN) hypothesis was put forward in an attempt to explain the global expression of antisense RNAs and the overall occurrence of tandem gene clusters in the genomes of various biological systems ranging from viruses to mammalian cells. The TIN hypothesis suggests the existence of a novel layer of genetic regulation, based on the interactions between the transcriptional machineries of neighboring genes at their overlapping regions, which are assumed to play a fundamental role in coordinating gene expression within a cluster of functionally linked genes. It is claimed that the transcriptional overlaps between adjacent genes are much more widespread in genomes than is thought today. The Waterfall model of the TIN hypothesis postulates a unidirectional effect of upstream genes on the transcription of downstream genes within a cluster of tandemly arrayed genes, while the Seesaw model proposes a mutual interdependence of gene expression between the oppositely oriented genes. The TIN represents an auto-regulatory system with an exquisitely timed and highly synchronized cascade of gene expression in functionally linked genes located in close physical proximity to each other. In this study, we focused on herpesviruses. The reason for this lies in the compressed nature of viral genes, which allows a tight regulation and an easier investigation of the transcriptional interactions between genes. However, I believe that the same or similar principles can be applied to cellular organisms too.

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