The transcription factors (TFs) OCT4, SOX2 and NANOG are key players of the gene regulatory network of pluripotent stem cells. Evidence accumulated in recent years shows that even small imbalances in the expression levels or relative concentrations of these TFs affect both, the maintenance of pluripotency and cell fate decisions. In addition, many components of the transcriptional machinery including RNA polymerases, cofactors and TFs such as those required for pluripotency, do not distribute homogeneously in the nucleus but concentrate in multiple foci influencing the delivery of these molecules to their DNA-targets. How cells control strict levels of available pluripotency TFs in this heterogeneous space and the biological role of these foci remain elusive. In recent years, a wealth of evidence led to propose that many of the nuclear compartments are formed through a liquid–liquid phase separation process. This new paradigm early penetrated the stem cells field since many key players of the pluripotency circuitry seem to phase-separate. Overall, the formation of liquid compartments may modulate the kinetics of biochemical reactions and consequently regulate many nuclear processes. Here, we review the state-of-the-art knowledge of compartmentalization in the cell nucleus and the relevance of this process for transcriptional regulation, particularly in pluripotent stem cells. We also highlight the recent advances and new ideas in the field showing how compartmentalization may affect pluripotency preservation and cell fate decisions.
Pluripotency transcription factors at the focus: the phase separation paradigm in stem cells
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Camila Oses, Martin Stortz, Paula Verneri, Alejandra Guberman, Valeria Levi; Pluripotency transcription factors at the focus: the phase separation paradigm in stem cells. Biochem Soc Trans 17 December 2021; 49 (6): 2871–2878. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BST20210856
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