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Keywords:

  • hESC;
  • chromatin;
  • histone modification;
  • epigenetics;
  • differentiation

Abstract

Epigenetic histone (H3) modification patterns and the nuclear radial arrangement of select genetic elements were compared in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) before and after differentiation. H3K9 acetylation, H3K9 trimethylation, and H3K79 monomethylation were reduced at the nuclear periphery of differentiated hESCs. Differentiation coincided with centromere redistribution, as evidenced by perinucleolar accumulation of the centromeric markers CENP-A and H3K9me3, central repositioning of centromeres 1, 5, 19, and rearrangement of other centromeres at the nuclear periphery. The radial positions of PML, RARα genes, and human chromosomes 10, 12, 15, 17, and 19 remained relatively stable as hESCs differentiated. However, the female inactive H3K27-trimethylated X chromosome occupied a more peripheral nuclear position in differentiated cells. Thus, pluripotent and differentiated hESCs have distinct nuclear patterns of heterochromatic structures (centromeres and inactive X chromosome) and epigenetic marks (H3K9me3, and H3K27me3), while relatively conserved gene density-related radial chromatin distributions are already largely established in undifferentiated hES cells. Developmental Dynamics 237:3690–3702, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.