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Polycomb repressive complexes-1 and -2 (PRC1 and 2) silence developmental genes in a spatiotemporal manner during embryogenesis. How Polycomb group (PcG) proteins orchestrate down-regulation of target genes upon differentiation, however, remains elusive. Here, by differentiating embryonic stem cells into embryoid bodies, we reveal a crucial role for the PCGF1-containing variant PRC1 complex (PCGF1-PRC1) to mediate differentiation-associated down-regulation of a group of genes. Upon differentiation cues, transcription is down-regulated at these genes, in association with PCGF1-PRC1-mediated deposition of histone H2AK119 mono-ubiquitination (H2AK119ub1) and PRC2 recruitment. In the absence of PCGF1-PRC1, both H2AK119ub1 deposition and PRC2 recruitment are disrupted, leading to aberrant expression of target genes. PCGF1-PRC1 is, therefore, required for initiation and consolidation of PcG-mediated gene repression during differentiation.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date