Prokaryotic versus Eukaryotic Gene Expression


Related Posts:

Prokaryotic cells do not have a nucleus, and D N A is located in the cytoplasm. Ribosomes attach to the m R N A as it is being transcribed from D N A. Thus, transcription and translation occur simultaneously. In eukaryotic cells, the D N A is located in the nucleus, and ribosomes are located in the cytoplasm. After being transcribed, pre m R N A is processed in the nucleus to make the mature mRNA, which is then exported to the cytoplasm where ribosomes become associated with it and translation begins.
Regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Prokaryotic transcription and translation occur simultaneously in the cytoplasm, and regulation occurs at the transcriptional level. Eukaryotic gene expression is regulated during transcription and RNA processing, which take place in the nucleus, and during protein translation, which takes place in the cytoplasm. Further regulation may occur through post-translational modifications of proteins. Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

OpenStax Biology 2e

Prokaryotic organisms are single-celled organisms that lack a cell nucleus, and their DNA therefore floats freely in the cell cytoplasm. To synthesize a protein, the processes of transcription and translation occur almost simultaneously. When the resulting protein is no longer needed, transcription stops. As a result, the primary method to control what type of protein and how much of each protein is expressed in a prokaryotic cell is the regulation of DNA transcription. All of the subsequent steps occur automatically. When more protein is required, more transcription occurs. Therefore, in prokaryotic cells, the control of gene expression is mostly at the transcriptional level.

Eukaryotic cells, in contrast, have intracellular organelles that add to their complexity. In eukaryotic cells, the DNA is contained inside the cell’s nucleus and there it is transcribed into RNA. The newly synthesized RNA is then transported out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm, where ribosomes translate the RNA into protein. The processes of transcription and translation are physically separated by the nuclear membrane; transcription occurs only within the nucleus, and translation occurs only outside the nucleus in the cytoplasm. The regulation of gene expression can occur at all stages of the process. Regulation may occur when the DNA is uncoiled and loosened from nucleosomes to bind transcription factors (epigenetic level), when the RNA is transcribed (transcriptional level), when the RNA is processed and exported to the cytoplasm after it is transcribed (post-transcriptional level), when the RNA is translated into protein (translational level), or after the protein has been made (post-translational level).

The differences in the regulation of gene expression between prokaryotes and eukaryotes are summarized in the table below.

Source: OpenStax Biology 2e


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: