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Keywords:

  • bivalent domain;
  • hematopoietic stem cell;
  • oxidative stress;
  • polycomb group protein

Polycomb group (PcG) proteins play a role in the transcriptional repression of genes through histone modifications. Recent studies have clearly demonstrated that PcG proteins are required for the maintenance of embryonic as well as a broad range of adult stem cells, including hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). PcG proteins maintain the self-renewal capacity of HSCs by repressing tumor suppressor genes and keep differentiation programs poised for activation in HSCs by repressing a cohort of hematopoietic developmental regulator genes via bivalent chromatin domains. Enforced expression of one of the PcG genes, Bmi1, augments the self-renewal capacity of HSCs. PcG proteins also maintain redox homeostasis to prevent premature loss of HSCs. These findings established PcG proteins as essential regulators of HSCs and underscored epigenetics as a new field of HSC research. In this review, we focus on the role of PcG proteins in the epigenetic regulation of the self-renewal capacity and multipotency of HSCs.