Development in vertebrates follows distinctive pathways of cellular differentiation. Starting from the zygote, newly formed cells continually differentiate until they reach a final mature fate. Whether differentiating into a neuron, a hepatocyte or a myofibril, every normal cell, with the exception of developing lymphocytes, carries the same genetic information enclosed within its nucleus. To acquire distinct cellular identities, cells need to control gene expression in a very regulated way. Genes encoding factors required for identity at a particular developmental stage need to be appropriately activated, whereas genes required for identity during the previous developmental stage are often silenced. Moreover, once a cell becomes terminally differentiated, 'heritable' gene expression must be maintained in all daughter cells and, thus, faithfully recapitulated after each cellular division.