Stochasticity in gene expression: from theories to phenotypes

Nat Rev Genet. 2005 Jun;6(6):451-64. doi: 10.1038/nrg1615.


Genetically identical cells exposed to the same environmental conditions can show significant variation in molecular content and marked differences in phenotypic characteristics. This variability is linked to stochasticity in gene expression, which is generally viewed as having detrimental effects on cellular function with potential implications for disease. However, stochasticity in gene expression can also be advantageous. It can provide the flexibility needed by cells to adapt to fluctuating environments or respond to sudden stresses, and a mechanism by which population heterogeneity can be established during cellular differentiation and development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Phenotype*
  • Stochastic Processes