Higher chromatin mobility supports totipotency and precedes pluripotency in vivo

Genes Dev. 2014 May 15;28(10):1042-7. doi: 10.1101/gad.238881.114.


The fusion of the gametes upon fertilization results in the formation of a totipotent cell. Embryonic chromatin is expected to be able to support a large degree of plasticity. However, whether this plasticity relies on a particular conformation of the embryonic chromatin is unknown. Moreover, whether chromatin plasticity is functionally linked to cellular potency has not been addressed. Here, we adapted fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) in the developing mouse embryo and show that mobility of the core histones H2A, H3.1, and H3.2 is unusually high in two-cell stage embryos and decreases as development proceeds. The transition toward pluripotency is accompanied by a decrease in histone mobility, and, upon lineage allocation, pluripotent cells retain higher mobility than the differentiated trophectoderm. Importantly, totipotent two-cell-like embryonic stem cells also display high core histone mobility, implying that reprogramming toward totipotency entails changes in chromatin mobility. Our data suggest that changes in chromatin dynamics underlie the transitions in cellular plasticity and that higher chromatin mobility is at the nuclear foundations of totipotency.

Keywords: cell fate; chromatin dynamics; pluripotency; reprogramming; totipotent cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / ultrastructure
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Totipotent Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Chromatin
  • Histones