Immediate early gene
Immediate early genes (IEGs) are genes which are activated transiently and rapidly in response to a wide variety of cellular stimuli. They represent a standing response mechanism that is activated at the transcription level in the first round of response to stimuli, before any new proteins are synthesized. Thus IEGs are distinct from "late response" genes, which can only be activated later, following the synthesis of early response gene products. Thus IEGs have been called the "gateway to the genomic response". The term can describe viral regulatory proteins that are synthesized following viral infection of a host cell, or cellular proteins that are made immediately following stimulation of a resting cell by extracellular signals.
A study from 1998 identified around 40 IEGs, though more recent studies sometimes find more, or cell-type specific IEGs. The earliest known and best characterized include c-fos, c-myc and c-jun, genes that were found to be homologous to retroviral oncogenes. Thus IEGs are well known as early regulators of cell growth and differentiation signals. However, other findings suggest roles for IEGs in many other cellular processes.
In their role as "gateways to genomic response", many IEG products are naturally transcription factors or other DNA-binding proteins. However, other important classes of IEG products include secreted proteins, cytoskeletal proteins, and receptor subunits.
Memory consolidation during a learning experience depends on the rapid expression of a set of IEGs in brain neurons. In general, expression of genes often can be epigenetically repressed by the presence of 5-methylcytosine in the DNA promoter regions of the genes. However in the case of IEGs associated with memory consolidation demethylation of 5-methylcytosine to form the normal base cytosine can induce rapid gene expression. Demethylation appears to occur by a DNA repair process involving the GADD45G protein.
- Activation of Immediate Early Genes by Drugs of Abuse a monograph published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Immediate-Early+Genes at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Immediate-Early+Proteins at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
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