Pioneer transcription factors, chromatin dynamics, and cell fate control

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2016 Apr;37:76-81. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2015.12.003. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Among the diverse transcription factors that are necessary to elicit changes in cell fate, both in embryonic development and in cellular reprogramming, a subset of factors are capable of binding to their target sequences on nucleosomal DNA and initiating regulatory events in silent chromatin. Such 'pioneer transcription factors' initiate cooperative interactions with other regulatory proteins to elicit changes in local chromatin structure. As a consequence of pioneer factor binding, the local chromatin can either become open and competent for activation, closed and repressed, or transcriptionally active. Understanding how pioneer factors initiate chromatin dynamics and how such can be blocked at heterochromatic sites provides insights into controlling cell fate transitions at will.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cellular Reprogramming / genetics*
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Nucleosomes / chemistry
  • Nucleosomes / genetics*
  • Protein Binding
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Chromatin
  • Nucleosomes
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA