Is transcription the dominant force during dynamic changes in gene expression?
Dynamic changes in gene expression punctuate lymphocyte development and are a characteristic of lymphocyte activation. A prevailing view has been that these changes are driven by DNA transcription factors, which are the dominant force in gene expression. Accumulating evidence is challenging this DNA centric view and has highlighted the prevalence and dynamic nature of RNA handling mechanisms. Alternative splicing and differential polyadenylation appear to be more widespread than first thought. Changes in mRNA decay rates also affect the abundance of transcripts and this mechanism may contribute significantly to gene expression. Additional RNA handling mechanisms that control the intracellular localization of mRNA and association with translating ribosomes are also important. Thus, gene expression is regulated through the coordination of transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms. Developing a more "RNA centric" view of gene expression will allow a more systematic understanding of how gene expression and cell function are integrated.