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Genes code for proteins, and proteins control most everything about us, including our appearance. The process of gene expression goes from DNA to RNA, and RNA to protein. The first process, transcription, occurs in the nucleus, and the other, translation, occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell.
It would be very wasteful to create all proteins, all the time, so genes are regulated. At any given time, some are turned on while others are turned off. Cell differentiation also relies on turning genes on or off. Even though every somatic cell has the same set of genes, some cells will turn particular genes either on or off. For example, a muscle cell will make a different set of proteins than a skin cell. In this way, different cells specialize to perform varies activities in the body.