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World J Stem Cells. Jul 26, 2013; 5(3): 73-85
Published online Jul 26, 2013. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v5.i3.73
Epigenetics and chromatin plasticity in embryonic stem cells
Terézia Přikrylová, Jiří Pacherník, Stanislav Kozubek, Eva Bártová
Terézia Přikrylová, Stanislav Kozubek, Eva Bártová, Institute of Biophysics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 612 65 Brno, Czech Republic
Jiří Pacherník, Department of Animal Physiology, Faculty of Sciences, Masaryk University, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic
Author contributions: Přikrylová T substantially contributed to the concept of the review; Pacherník J and Kozubek S improved the content of the article; Bártová E finalized the text, made final design of images and performed image acquisition.
Supported by Grants P302/12/G157 and 13-07822S from the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic and by COST-CZ project LD11020 of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport of the Czech Republic; Bártová E is a coordinator of the EU Marie Curie Project PIRSES-GA-2010-269156-LCS.
Correspondence to: Eva Bártová, Associate Professor, Institute of Biophysics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i., Královopolská 135, 612 65 Brno, Czech Republic.
Telephone: +420-5-41517141 Fax: +420-5-41240498
Received: February 4, 2013
Revised: April 18, 2013
Accepted: June 5, 2013
Published online: July 26, 2013

The study of embryonic stem cells is in the spotlight in many laboratories that study the structure and function of chromatin and epigenetic processes. The key properties of embryonic stem cells are their capacity for self-renewal and their pluripotency. Pluripotent stem cells are able to differentiate into the cells of all three germ layers, and because of this property they represent a promising therapeutic tool in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, or in the healing of lesions after heart attack. As the basic nuclear unit, chromatin is responsible for the regulation of the functional status of cells, including pluripotency and differentiation. Therefore, in this review we discuss the functional changes in chromatin during differentiation and the correlation between epigenetics events and the differentiation potential of embryonic stem cells. In particular we focus on post-translational histone modification, DNA methylation and the heterochromatin protein HP1 and its unique function in mouse and human embryonic stem cells.

Keywords: Chromatin, Epigenetics, Embryonic stem cells, Nucleus, Pluripotency, Differentiation

Core tip: Here, we provided a summary on epigenetics and chromatin structure in pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and their differentiated counterpart. We especially aim at histone signature, function of heterochromatin protein 1. Moreover, we summarized published data on nuclear architecture; we especially addressed arrangement of chromosome territories and genes in pluripotent ESCs and after induced differentiation.