Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 515–522 | Cite as

Recruitment and reinforcement: maintaining epigenetic silencing

  • Chengzhi Wang
  • Bing Zhu
  • Jun Xiong


Cells need to appropriately balance transcriptional stability and adaptability in order to maintain their identities while responding robustly to various stimuli. Eukaryotic cells use an elegant “epigenetic” system to achieve this functionality. “Epigenetics” is referred to as heritable information beyond the DNA sequence, including histone and DNA modifications, ncRNAs and other chromatin-related components. Here, we review the mechanisms of the epigenetic inheritance of a repressive chromatin state, with an emphasis on recent progress in the field. We emphasize that (i) epigenetic information is inherited in a relatively stable but imprecise fashion; (ii) multiple cis and trans factors are involved in the maintenance of epigenetic information during mitosis; and (iii) the maintenance of a repressive epigenetic state requires both recruitment and self-reinforcement mechanisms. These mechanisms crosstalk with each other and form interconnected feedback loops to shape a stable epigenetic system while maintaining certain degrees of flexibility.


heterochromatin heterochromatin maintenance polycomb H3K27me3 H3K9me2/3 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31761163001, 31701128).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, CAS Center for Excellence in Biomacromolecules, Institute of BiophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Life SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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