Epigenetic stem cell signature in cancer

Nat Genet. 2007 Feb;39(2):157-8. doi: 10.1038/ng1941. Epub 2006 Dec 31.


Embryonic stem cells rely on Polycomb group proteins to reversibly repress genes required for differentiation. We report that stem cell Polycomb group targets are up to 12-fold more likely to have cancer-specific promoter DNA hypermethylation than non-targets, supporting a stem cell origin of cancer in which reversible gene repression is replaced by permanent silencing, locking the cell into a perpetual state of self-renewal and thereby predisposing to subsequent malignant transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins