Now that the sequencing of genomes has become routine, understanding how a given genome is used in different ways to obtain cell type diversity in an organism is the next frontier. How specific transcription programs are established during vertebrate embryogenesis, however, remains poorly understood. Transcription is influenced by chromatin structure, which determines the accessibility of DNA-binding proteins to the genome. Although large-scale genomics approaches have uncovered specific features of chromatin structure that are diagnostic for different cell types and developmental stages, our functional understanding of chromatin in transcriptional regulation during development is very limited. In recent years, zebrafish embryogenesis has emerged as an excellent vertebrate model system to investigate the functional relationship between chromatin organization, gene regulation and development in a dynamic environment. Here, we review how studies in zebrafish have started to improve our understanding of the role of chromatin structure in genome activation and pluripotency and in the potential inheritance of transcriptional states from parent to progeny.
Keywords: chromatin; development; genomics; transcription; zebrafish.