Myc regulates the transcription of the PRC2 gene to control the expression of developmental genes in embryonic stem cells

Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Feb;32(4):840-51. doi: 10.1128/MCB.06148-11. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Myc family members are critical to maintain embryonic stem cells (ESC) in the undifferentiated state. However, the mechanism by which they perform this task has not yet been elucidated. Here we show that Myc directly upregulates the transcription of all core components of the Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) as well as the ESC-specific PRC2-associated factors. By expressing Myc protein fused with the estrogen receptor (Myc-ER) in fibroblasts, we observed that Myc, binding to the regulatory elements of Suz12, Ezh2, and Eed, induces the acetylation of histones H3 and H4 and the recruitment of elongating RNA polymerase II at their promoters. The silencing of both c-Myc and N-Myc in ESC results in reduced expression of PRC2 and H3K27me3 at Polycomb target developmental regulators and upregulation of genes involved in primitive endoderm differentiation. The ectopic expression of PRC2 in ESC, either silenced for c-Myc and N-Myc or induced to differentiate by leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) withdrawal, is sufficient to maintain the H3K27me3 mark at genes with bivalent histone modifications and keep repressed the genes involved in ESC differentiation. Thus, Myc proteins control the expression of developmental regulators via the upregulation of the Polycomb PRC2 complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • E-Box Elements
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Mice
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Myc protein, mouse
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Repressor Proteins