Stapel, L.C., Zechner, C., Vastenhouw, N.L. (2017) Uniform gene expression in embryos is achieved by temporal averaging of transcription noise. Genes & Development. 31(16):1635-1640.
Transcription is often stochastic. This is seemingly incompatible with the importance of gene expression during development. Here we show that during zebrafish embryogenesis, transcription activation is stochastic due to (1) genes acquiring transcriptional competence at different times in different cells, (2) differences in cell cycle stage between cells, and (3) the stochastic nature of transcription. Initially, stochastic transcription causes large cell-to-cell differences in transcript levels. However, variability is reduced by lengthening cell cycles and the accumulation of transcription events in each cell. Temporal averaging might provide a general context in which to understand how embryos deal with stochastic transcription.