The resetting of a somatic epigenotype to a totipotential state has been demonstrated by successful animal cloning, via transplantation of somatic nuclei into enucleated oocytes. We have established an experimental system, which reproduces the nuclear reprogramming of somatic cells in vitro by fusing adult thymocytes with embryonic stem (ES) cells. Analysis of the lymphoid-cell-specific V-(D)-J DNA rearrangement of the T cell receptor and immunoglobin genes shows that the ES cells have hybridized with differentiated cells. In these ES cell hybrids, the inactivated X chromosome derived from a female thymocyte adopts some characteristics of an active X chromosome, including early replication timing and unstable Xist transcription. We also found that an Oct4-GFP transgene, which is normally repressed in thymocytes, is reactivated 48 hr after cell fusion. The pluripotency of the ES-thymocyte hybrid cells is shown in vivo, since they contribute to all three primary germ layers of chimeric embryos. The somatic DNA methylation pattern of the imprinted H19 and Igf2r genes is maintained in these hybrids, unlike hybrids between ES and EG (embryonic germ) cells in which the differential methylation is erased. Thus, ES cells have the capacity to reset certain aspects of the epigenotype of somatic cells to those of ES cells.