Caister Academic Press

Embryonic Stem Cell Epigenetics

Christine Powell and Brian Hendrich
from: Epigenetics (Edited by: Jörg Tost). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2008)

Abstract

Stem cells can both self-renew and produce multiple cell types. Unlike adult stem cells, which can give rise to either one differentiated cell type (unipotent) or multiple cell types (multipotent), embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent, meaning they can contribute to any tissue type in the body. Each cell type, be it pluripotent or terminally differentiated, is defined by the genes that it expresses and represses, and control of gene expression is fundamental to the process of differentiation. A number of epigenetic processes, including histone modification, DNA methylation and chromatin remodelling, are vital for the ability of ES cells to differentiate correctly. The ES cell epigenome possesses certain features that are unique to these cell types and are involved in the regulation of pluripotency. It has been suggested that this unique epigenetic profile allows ES cells to both prevent transcription of genes associated with differentiation, but also to allow transcription should the correct developmental signals be received. Understanding transcriptional control in pluripotent and differentiating cells will be vitally important for ES cells fulfil their potential for regenerative medicine read more ...
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