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Mol Cell. 2012 Apr 27;46(2):159-70. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.02.013. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Embryonic stem cells induce pluripotency in somatic cell fusion through biphasic reprogramming.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


It is a long-held paradigm that cell fusion reprograms gene expression but the extent of reprogramming and whether it is affected by the cell types employed remain unknown. We recently showed that the silencing of somatic genes is attributable to either trans-acting cellular environment or cis-acting chromatin context. Here, we examine how trans- versus cis-silenced genes in a somatic cell type behave in fusions to another somatic cell type or to embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We demonstrate that while reprogramming of trans-silenced somatic genes occurs in both cases, reprogramming of cis-silenced somatic genes occurs only in somatic-ESC fusions. Importantly, ESCs reprogram the somatic genome in two distinct phases: trans-reprogramming occurs rapidly, independent of DNA replication, whereas cis-reprogramming occurs with slow kinetics requiring DNA replication. We also show that pluripotency genes Oct4 and Nanog are cis-silenced in somatic cells. We conclude that cis-reprogramming capacity is a fundamental feature distinguishing ESCs from somatic cells.

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