Nucleotide substitutions revealing specific functions of Polycomb group genes

Izabella Bajusz, László Sipos, Melinda K. Pirity

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)


POLYCOMB group (PCG) proteins belong to the family of epigenetic regulators of genes playing important roles in differentiation and development. Mutants of PcG genes were isolated first in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, resulting in spectacular segmental transformations due to the ectopic expression of homeotic genes. Homologs of Drosophila PcG genes were also identified in plants and in vertebrates and subsequent experiments revealed the general role of PCG proteins in the maintenance of the repressed state of chromatin through cell divisions. The past decades of gene targeting experiments have allowed us to make significant strides towards understanding how the network of PCG proteins influences multiple aspects of cellular fate determination during development. Being involved in the transmission of specific expression profiles of different cell lineages, PCG proteins were found to control wide spectra of unrelated epigenetic processes in vertebrates, such as stem cell plasticity and renewal, genomic imprinting and inactivation of X-chromosome. PCG proteins also affect regulation of metabolic genes being important for switching programs between pluripotency and differentiation. Insight into the precise roles of PCG proteins in normal physiological processes has emerged from studies employing cell culture-based systems and genetically modified animals. Here we summarize the findings obtained from PcG mutant fruit flies and mice generated to date with a focus on PRC1 and PRC2 members altered by nucleotide substitutions resulting in specific alleles. We also include a compilation of lessons learned from these models about the in vivo functions of this complex protein family. With multiple knockout lines, sophisticated approaches to study the consequences of peculiar missense point mutations, and insights from complementary gain-of-function systems in hand, we are now in a unique position to significantly advance our understanding of the molecular basis of in vivo functions of PcG proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-556
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Epigenetic repression
  • Homeotic regulation
  • Point mutation
  • Polycomb-group
  • Repressor complexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology

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