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Nat Rev Genet. 2014 Feb;15(2):93-106. doi: 10.1038/nrg3607. Epub 2013 Dec 24.

Chromatin modifiers and remodellers: regulators of cellular differentiation.

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1] Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. [2] Center for Cancer Epigenetics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Science Park, 1808 Park Road 1C, Smithville, Texas 78957, USA. [3] The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Cellular differentiation is, by definition, epigenetic. Genome-wide profiling of pluripotent cells and differentiated cells suggests global chromatin remodelling during differentiation, which results in a progressive transition from a fairly open chromatin configuration to a more compact state. Genetic studies in mouse models show major roles for a variety of histone modifiers and chromatin remodellers in key developmental transitions, such as the segregation of embryonic and extra-embryonic lineages in blastocyst stage embryos, the formation of the three germ layers during gastrulation and the differentiation of adult stem cells. Furthermore, rather than merely stabilizing the gene expression changes that are driven by developmental transcription factors, there is emerging evidence that chromatin regulators have multifaceted roles in cell fate decisions.

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