Only a fraction of all the genes in a genome are expressed in a given cell or at a given time. These genes undergo the process of transcription, in which an RNA molecule complementary to one of the gene's DNA strands is synthesized in a 5' to 3' direction, using nucleotide triphosphates. Transcription can be classified into three discrete steps: initiation, mRNA chain elongation, and chain termination. Transcriptional regulation may occur at any step in the process; however, initiation appears to be the primary control point because, in a sense, it is the rate-limiting step. Localization of the transcription start site and regulation of the rate of transcription are essential to initiation. The cis- and trans-acting factors described above all regulate the initiation of transcription.

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