Transcription occurs in stochastic bursts, i.e., transcription events are temporally clustered. The clustering does not ensue from environmental fluctuations but springs from the intrinsically stochastic behavior of the regulatory process that controls transcription. Based on microscopic observations of transcription at a single gene copy of yeast, we show that the regulatory process is cyclic and irreversible, i.e., the process violates the detailed balance conditions for thermodynamic equilibrium. The theoretical significance of this finding is discussed.
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