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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Jun;22(4):336-42. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.02.025. Epub 2011 Mar 3.

X-chromosome epigenetic reprogramming in pluripotent stem cells via noncoding genes.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Acquisition of the pluripotent state coincides with epigenetic reprogramming of the X-chromosome. Female embryonic stem cells are characterized by the presence of two active X-chromosomes, cell differentiation by inactivation of one of the two Xs, and induced pluripotent stem cells by reactivation of the inactivated X-chromosome in the originating somatic cell. The tight linkage between X- and stem cell reprogramming occurs through pluripotency factors acting on noncoding genes of the X-inactivation center. This review article will discuss the latest advances in our understanding at the molecular level. Mouse embryonic stem cells provide a standard for defining the pluripotent ground state, which is characterized by low levels of the noncoding Xist RNA and the absence of heterochromatin marks on the X-chromosome. Human pluripotent stem cells, however, exhibit X-chromosome epigenetic instability that may have implications for their use in regenerative medicine. XIST RNA and heterochromatin marks on the X-chromosome indicate whether human pluripotent stem cells are developmentally 'naïve', with characteristics of the pluripotent ground state. X-chromosome status and determination thereof via noncoding RNA expression thus provide valuable benchmarks of the epigenetic quality of pluripotent stem cells, an important consideration given their enormous potential for stem cell therapy.

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