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Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 104–112 | Cite as

X chromosome inactivation and the Xist gene

  • N. Brockdorff
  • S. M. Duthie

Abstract.

Recent years have seen rapid progress towards understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in X chromosome inactivation (X inactivation). This progress has largely revolved around the discovery of the X inactive specific transcript (Xist) gene, which is known now to represent the master switch locus regulating X inactivation. In adult cells Xist is transcribed exclusively from the inactive X chromosome. The transcript has no apparent protein-coding potential and is retained in the nucleus in close association with the domain occupied by the inactive X chromosome. It is thus thought to represent a functional RNA molecule which acts as the primary signal responsible for the propagation of X inactivation. Developmental regulation of Xist correlates with the developmental timing of X inactivation. Recent results have demonstrated that Xist is both necessary and sufficient for X inactivation. Goals for the future are to understand the mechanism of Xist regulation which underlies the establishment of appropriate X inactivation patterns and to determine how Xist RNA participates in the process of propagating inactivation in cis.

Key words. X chromosome inactivation; X inactivation centre; Xist; imprinting; chromatin structure. 

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel, 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Brockdorff
    • 1
  • S. M. Duthie
    • 1
  1. 1.Imperial College School of Medicine, X-inactivation Group, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Hammersmith Hospital, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN (United Kingdom), Fax +181 383 8303, e-mail: nbrockdo@hgmp.mrc.ac.ukUK

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