Gene overexpression: uses, mechanisms, and interpretation

Genetics. 2012 Mar;190(3):841-54. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.136911.


The classical genetic approach for exploring biological pathways typically begins by identifying mutations that cause a phenotype of interest. Overexpression or misexpression of a wild-type gene product, however, can also cause mutant phenotypes, providing geneticists with an alternative yet powerful tool to identify pathway components that might remain undetected using traditional loss-of-function analysis. This review describes the history of overexpression, the mechanisms that are responsible for overexpression phenotypes, tests that begin to distinguish between those mechanisms, the varied ways in which overexpression is used, the methods and reagents available in several organisms, and the relevance of overexpression to human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Dosage*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Plants / genetics