Transcription factors that behave as master regulators during mammalian embryogenesis function as molecular rheostats.

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Three transcription factors, Sox2, Oct-3/4 and Nanog, have been identified as master regulators that orchestrate mammalian embryogenesis as well as the self-renewal and pluripotency of ES (embryonic stem) cells. Efforts to understand how these transcription factors function have shown that they have a special property in common. Small changes in the expression of any one of these factors dramatically alter the self-renewal and pluripotency of ES cells. In this way, each functions as a molecular rheostat to control the behaviour of ES cells. Recent studies have begun to examine the molecular mechanisms that regulate the levels of these transcription factors. In this issue of the Biochemical Journal, Mullin and co-workers report that Nanog can self-associate to form dimers. Importantly, they also show that the domain responsible for dimerization is also needed for Nanog to sustain the self-renewal of ES cells in the absence of the cytokine LIF (leukaemia inhibitory factor). On the basis of their studies, they propose a novel mechanism for regulating the interactions between Nanog and other nuclear proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e5-7
JournalThe Biochemical journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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