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Development. 2009 Jul;136(14):2311-22. doi: 10.1242/dev.024398.

The transcriptional foundation of pluripotency.

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  • 1MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Institute for Stem Cell Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JQ, UK.


A fundamental goal in biology is to understand the molecular basis of cell identity. Pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cell identity is governed by a set of transcription factors centred on the triumvirate of Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog. These proteins often bind to closely localised genomic sites. Recent studies have identified additional transcriptional modulators that bind to chromatin near sites occupied by Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog. This suggests that the combinatorial control of gene transcription might be fundamental to the ES cell state. Here we discuss how these observations advance our understanding of the transcription factor network that controls pluripotent identity and highlight unresolved issues that arise from these studies.

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