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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2016 Mar;17(3):139-54. doi: 10.1038/nrm.2016.6. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Molecular features of cellular reprogramming and development.

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Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.
Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Differentiating somatic cells are progressively restricted to specialized functions during ontogeny, but they can be experimentally directed to form other cell types, including those with complete embryonic potential. Early nuclear reprogramming methods, such as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and cell fusion, posed significant technical hurdles to precise dissection of the regulatory programmes governing cell identity. However, the discovery of reprogramming by ectopic expression of a defined set of transcription factors, known as direct reprogramming, provided a tractable platform to uncover molecular characteristics of cellular specification and differentiation, cell type stability and pluripotency. We discuss the control and maintenance of cellular identity during developmental transitions as they have been studied using direct reprogramming, with an emphasis on transcriptional and epigenetic regulation.

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