Nature Reviews Genetics 8, 263-271 (April 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrg2046

Focus on: Epigenetics

Epigenetic signatures of stem-cell identity

Mikhail Spivakov1 & Amanda G. Fisher1  About the authors


Pluripotent stem cells, similar to more restricted stem cells, are able to both self-renew and generate differentiated progeny. Although this dual functionality has been much studied, the search for molecular signatures of 'stemness' and pluripotency is only now beginning to gather momentum. While the focus of much of this work has been on the transcriptional features of embryonic stem cells, recent studies have indicated the importance of unique epigenetic profiles that keep key developmental genes 'poised' in a repressed but activatable state. Determining how these epigenetic features relate to the transcriptional signatures of ES cells, and whether they are also important in other types of stem cell, is a key challenge for the future.

Author affiliations

  1. Lymphocyte Development Group, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, UK.

Correspondence to: Amanda G. Fisher1 Email:


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