Epigenetic modification is central to genome reprogramming in somatic cell nuclear transfer

Stem Cells. 2006 Apr;24(4):805-14. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2005-0350. Epub 2005 Nov 10.


The recent high-profile reports of the derivation of human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from human blastocysts produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) have highlighted the possibility of making autologous cell lines specific to individual patients. Cell replacement therapies have much potential for the treatment of diverse conditions, and differentiation of ESCs is highly desirable as a means of producing the ranges of cell types required. However, given the range of immunophenotypes of ESC lines currently available, rejection of the differentiated cells by the host is a potentially serious problem. SCNT offers a means of circumventing this by producing ESCs of the same genotype as the donor. However, this technique is not without problems because it requires resetting of the gene expression program of a somatic cell to a state consistent with embryonic development. Some remodeling of parental DNA does occur within the fertilized oocyte, but the somatic genome presented in a radically different format to those of the gametes. Hence, it is perhaps unsurprising that many genes are expressed aberrantly within "cloned" embryos and the ESCs derived from them. Epigenetic modification of the genome through DNA methylation and covalent modification of the histones that form the nucleosome is the key to the maintenance of the differentiated state of the cell, and it is this that must be reset during SCNT. This review focuses on the mechanisms by which this is achieved and how this may account for its partial failure in the "cloning" process. We also highlight the potential dangers this may introduce into ESCs produced by this technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cloning, Organism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hybrid Cells
  • Nuclear Transfer Techniques*
  • Oocytes / cytology
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology