SCIENTIA SINICA Vitae, Volume 49, Issue 9: 1054-1068(2019) https://doi.org/10.1360/SSV-2019-0160

Role and regulatory mechanism of heterochromatin in pluripotency maintenance

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  • ReceivedJul 25, 2019
  • AcceptedAug 9, 2019
  • PublishedSep 4, 2019


Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), including embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, have the potential to infinitely self-renew and differentiate into all cell types in the body. Therefore, they have important clinical applications in the field of regenerative medicine. Unique heterochromatin and histone modifications play an important role in PSC pluripotency, rapid proliferation, fate determination, and genomic stability. The present article summarizes up-to-date information on the role of and mechanisms underlying the maintenance of pluripotency and genomic stability by heterochromatin. Moreover, it summarizes how PSCs maintain their characteristic heterochromatin states.

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  • Figure 1

    A simplified schematic representation of the effects of ESC heterochromatin composition; modifications, including repeats, telomere/telomeric regions, and centromere regions on the activity of retrotransposons. Heterochromatin plays a fine regulatory role in ESC pluripotent gene expression and networks, MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblasts

  • Figure 2

    Telomere and heterochromatin histone modifications play important roles in stem cell pluripotency maintenance and differentiation. The H3K9me3 epigenetic protein complex regulates telomere homeostasis and PSC pluripotency, preventing excessive cells from entering the 2C state and maintaining only 1%–5% of cells transiently expressing Zscan4/ERV (these cells do not express Oct4, Nanog protein) and 95%–99% of normally expressing pluripotent transcription factors (such as Oct4 and Nanog) [55]

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