Epigenetic modifications play crucial roles on establishment of tissue-specific transcription profiles and cellular characteristics. Direct conversions of fibroblasts into differentiated tissue cells by over-expression of critical transcription factors have been reported, but the epigenetic mechanisms underlying these conversions are still not fully understood. In addition, conversion of somatic cells into germ cells has not yet been achieved. To understand epigenetic mechanisms that underlie germ cell characteristics, we attempted to use defined epigenetic factors to directly convert mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) into germ cells. Here, we successfully induced germ cell-specific genes by inhibiting repressive epigenetic modifications via RNAi or small-molecule compounds. Under these conditions, some tissue-specific genes and stimulus-inducible genes were also induced. Meanwhile, the treatments did not result in genome-wide transcriptional activation. These results suggested that a permissive epigenetic environment resulted in selective de-repression of stimulus-and differentiation-inducible genes including germ cell-specific genes in MEFs.
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