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Keywords:

  • signal transduction;
  • histone modifications;
  • Polycomb;
  • chromatin.

Abstract

Cells must be able to respond rapidly and precisely not only to changes in their external environment but also to developmental and differentiation cues to determine when to divide, die, or acquire a particular cell fate. Signal transduction pathways are responsible for the integration and interpretation of most of such signals into specific transcriptional states. Those states are achieved by the modulation of chromatin structure that activates or represses transcription at particular loci. Although a large variety of signal transduction pathways have already been described, much less is known about the crosstalk between signal transduction and its consequent changes in chromatin structure and, therefore, gene expression. Here we present some examples of the relationship between chromatin-associated proteins and important signal transduction pathways during critical processes like development, differentiation, and disease. There is a great diversity of epigenetic mechanisms that have unexpected interactions with signaling pathways to establish transcriptional programs. Moreover, there are also particular cases where signaling pathways directly affect important components of the epigenetic machinery. Based on such examples, we further propose future research directions linking cell signaling and epigenetics. It is foreseeable that analyzing the relationship between cell signaling and epigenetics will be a huge area for future development that will help us understand the complex process by which a cell is able to induce transcriptional changes in response to external and internal signals. © 2011 IUBMB IUBMB Life, 2011