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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2008 Apr;20(2):201-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Stem cell regulation by polycomb repressors: postponing commitment.

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Netherlands Cancer Institute, Molecular Genetics, P1, Plesmanlaan 121, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Polycomb group proteins (PcGs) are involved in gene repression through chromatin modifications and required for the maintenance of both embryonic and adult stem cells. Genome-wide studies demonstrate that genes targeted by PcG are predominantly developmental transcription factors. In embryonic stem cells, these genes carry not only a repressive PcG mark but also an activating mark, resulting in so-called 'bivalent domains'. New data suggest that genes with bivalent domains are primed for differential expression upon differentiation. We propose that the resolution of a bivalent domain into either an active or repressed state constitutes a cell fate decision, and that by postponing these decisions PcG contributes to pluripotency.

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