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Epigenetics Chromatin. 2009 Oct 7;2(1):12. doi: 10.1186/1756-8935-2-12.

ERG-associated protein with SET domain (ESET)-Oct4 interaction regulates pluripotency and represses the trophectoderm lineage.

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Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.



Pluripotency, the capacity for indefinite self-renewal and differentiation into diverse cell types is a unique state exhibited by embryonic stem (ES) cells. Transcriptional regulators, such as Oct4, are critical for pluripotency, but the role of epigenetic modifiers remains to be fully elucidated.


Here, we show that ERG-associated protein with SET domain (ESET), a histone methyltransferase enzyme, maintains pluripotency through repression of Cdx2, a key trophectoderm determinant, by histone H3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) of the promoter region. Notably, this repression is mediated through the synergistic function of small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO)ylated ESET and Oct4. ESET localises to the promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) nuclear bodies and is SUMOylated in ES cells. Interaction of ESET with Oct4 depends on a SUMO-interacting motif (SIM) in Oct4, which is critical for the repression of Cdx2.


Loss of ESET or Oct4 results in strikingly similar phenotypes both in ES cells with their differentiation into trophectoderm cells, and in early embryos where there is a failure of development of the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) of blastocysts. We propose that SUMOylated ESET-Oct4 complex is critical for both the initiation and maintenance of pluripotency through repression of differentiation, particularly of the trophectoderm lineage by epigenetic silencing of Cdx2.

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