In mice, dosage compensation of X-linked gene expression is achieved through the inactivation of one of the two X-chromosomes in XX female cells. The complex epigenetic process leading to X-inactivation is largely controlled by Xist and Tsix, two non-coding genes of opposing function. Xist RNA triggers X-inactivation by coating the inactive X, while Tsix is critical for the designation of the active X-chromosome through cis-repression of Xist RNA accumulation. Recently, a plethora of trans-acting factors and cis-regulating elements have been suggested to act as key regulators of either Xist, Tsix or both; these include ubiquitous factors such as Yy1 and Ctcf, developmental proteins such as Nanog, Oct4 and Sox2, and X-linked regulators such as Rnf12. In this paper we summarise recent advances in our knowledge of the regulation of Xist and Tsix in embryonic stem (ES) and differentiating ES cells.