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Stem Cells International
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 425863, 15 pages
Review Article

Nuclear Reprogramming in Mouse Primordial Germ Cells: Epigenetic Contribution

Section of Histology and Embryology, Department of Public Health and Cell Biology, University of Rome “Tor Vergata,” 00173 Rome, Italy

Received 2 March 2011; Accepted 11 July 2011

Academic Editor: Giorgio A. Presicce

Copyright © 2011 Massimo De Felici. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The unique capability of germ cells to give rise to a new organism, allowing the transmission of primary genetic information from generation to generation, depends on their epigenetic reprogramming ability and underlying genomic totipotency. Recent studies have shown that genome-wide epigenetic modifications, referred to as “epigenetic reprogramming”, occur during the development of the gamete precursors termed primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the embryo. This reprogramming is likely to be critical for the germ line development itself and necessary to erase the parental imprinting and setting the base for totipotency intrinsic to this cell lineage. The status of genome acquired during reprogramming and the associated expression of key pluripotency genes render PGCs susceptible to transform into pluripotent stem cells. This may occur in vivo under still undefined condition, and it is likely at the origin of the formation of germ cell tumors. The phenomenon appears to be reproduced under partly defined in vitro culture conditions, when PGCs are transformed into embryonic germ (EG) cells. In the present paper, I will try to summarize the contribution that epigenetic modifications give to nuclear reprogramming in mouse PGCs.