Asynchronous transcriptional silencing of individual retroviral genomes in embryonic cells

Sharon Schlesinger, Eran Meshorer, Stephen P. Goff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Retroviral DNAs are profoundly silenced at the transcriptional level in embryonic cell types. The transcriptional profile of pluripotent stem cells has been demonstrated to be extremely heterogeneous from cell to cell, and how the silencing of retroviral DNAs is achieved is not yet well characterized.Results: In the current study, we investigated the transcriptional silencing dynamics in stem cells by independently monitoring the expression of two Moloney murine leukemia virus (MMLV) retroviral vectors newly introduced into embryonic carcinoma (EC) cells. Although MMLV is efficiently silenced by epigenetic mechanisms in most such cells, a small number of the doubly-transduced EC cells transiently show double-positive proviral expression. These cells were sorted and their expression patterns were studied over time as silencing is established.Conclusions: Our data suggest that retroviral silencing occurs stochastically, in an individual locus-specific fashion, and often without synchronous silencing of both viruses in the same cells. Surprisingly, the chromatin modifications that mark the silenced proviruses are unchanged even in cells that temporarily escape silencing. This local silencing effect is a feature of stem cell epigenomic regulation that has not previously been revealed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number31
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NCI grant R37 CA 30488 from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. S.P.G. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


  • Chromatin modifications
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Transcriptional silencing


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