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Guthmann, Manuel; Burton, Adam and Torres-Padilla, Maria-Elena (2019): Expression and phase separation potential of heterochromatin proteins during early mouse development. In: EMBO Reports, e47952

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In most eukaryotes, constitutive heterochromatin is associated with H3K9me3 and HP1 alpha. The latter has been shown to play a role in heterochromatin formation through liquid-liquid phase separation. However, many other proteins are known to regulate and/or interact with constitutive heterochromatic regions in several species. We postulate that some of these heterochromatic proteins may play a role in the regulation of heterochromatin formation by liquid-liquid phase separation. Indeed, an analysis of the constitutive heterochromatin proteome shows that proteins associated with constitutive heterochromatin are significantly more disordered than a random set or a full nucleome set of proteins. Interestingly, their expression begins low and increases during preimplantation development. These observations suggest that the preimplantation embryo is a useful model to address the potential role for phase separation in heterochromatin formation, anticipating exciting research in the years to come. Proteins of the constitutive heterochromatin proteome tend to contain intrinsically disordered regions. Their expression correlates with chromocenter formation and reduced cellular plasticity during mouse pre-implantation development.

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