Somatic Lineage Reprogramming

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2022 Oct 3;14(10):a040808. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a040808.


Embryonic development and cell specification have been viewed as an epigenetically rigid process. Through accumulation of irreversible epigenetic marks, the differentiation process has been considered unidirectional, and once completed cell specification would be permanent and stable. However, somatic cell nuclear transfer that involved the implantation of a somatic nucleus into a previously enucleated oocyte accomplished in amphibians in the 1950s and in mammals in the late 1990s-resulting in the birth of "Dolly the sheep"-clearly showed that "terminal" differentiation is reversible. In parallel, work on lineage-determining factors like MyoD revealed surprising potential to modulate lineage identity in somatic cells. This work culminated in the discovery that a set of four defined factors can reprogram fibroblasts into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which were shown to be molecularly and functionally equivalent to blastocyst-derived embryonic stem (ES) cells, thus essentially showing that defined factors can induce authentic reprogramming without the need of oocytes. This concept was further extended when it was shown that fibroblasts can be directly converted into neurons, showing induced lineage conversion is possible even between cells representing two different germ layers. These findings suggest that "everything is possible" (i.e., once key lineage reprogramming factors are identified, cells should be able to convert into any desired lineage).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Female
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Mammals
  • Nuclear Transfer Techniques
  • Pregnancy
  • Sheep