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Cell. 2006 Dec 1;127(5):891-904.

Pathway to totipotency: lessons from germ cells.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 725 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Oocytes and sperm are some of the most differentiated cells in our bodies, yet they generate all cell types after fertilization. Accumulating evidence suggests that this extraordinary potential is conferred to germ cells from the time of their formation during embryogenesis. In this Review, we describe common themes emerging from the study of germ cells in vertebrates and invertebrates. Transcriptional repression, chromatin remodeling, and an emphasis on posttranscriptional gene regulation preserve the totipotent genome of germ cells through generations.

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