Polycomb, trithorax and the decision to differentiate

Bioessays. 2006 Apr;28(4):330-4. doi: 10.1002/bies.20388.


For stem cells, life is full of potential: they have a high capacity to proliferate and a wide choice of future identities. When they differentiate, cells leave behind this freedom and become ever more committed to a single fate. Intriguingly, the Polycomb and Trithorax groups of proteins are vital to the very different natures of both stem cells and differentiated cells, but little is known about how they make the transition from one cell type to the other. A recent paper(1) throws light on this mystery, showing that the Polycomb proteins dramatically change their behaviour at a crucial moment of differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors