Recent advances in X-chromosome inactivation

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2004 Jun;16(3):247-55. doi: 10.1016/


X inactivation is the silencing one of the two X chromosomes in XX female mammals. Initiation of this process during early development is controlled by the X-inactivation centre, a complex locus that determines how many, and which, X chromosomes will be inactivated. It also produces the Xist transcript, a remarkable RNA that coats the X chromosome in cis and triggers its silencing. Xist RNA coating induces a cascade of chromatin changes on the X chromosome, including the recruitment of Polycomb group proteins. This results in an inactive state that is initially labile, but may be further locked in by epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation. In mice, X inactivation has recently been found to be much more dynamic than previously thought during early pre-implantation development. The paternal X chromosome is initially inactivated in all cells of cleavage-stage embryos and then selectively reactivated in the subset of cells that will form the embryo, with random X inactivation occurring thereafter.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Dosage Compensation, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • X Chromosome / genetics
  • X Chromosome / metabolism*


  • Chromatin
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Repressor Proteins
  • XIST non-coding RNA