Chromosome Research

, Volume 21, Issue 6–7, pp 601–614 | Cite as

Long nonoding RNAs in the X-inactivation center

  • Emily Maclary
  • Michael Hinten
  • Clair Harris
  • Sundeep Kalantry


The X-inactivation center is a hotbed of functional long noncoding RNAs in eutherian mammals. These RNAs are thought to help orchestrate the epigenetic transcriptional states of the two X-chromosomes in females as well as of the single X-chromosome in males. To balance X-linked gene expression between the sexes, females undergo transcriptional silencing of most genes on one of the two X-chromosomes in a process termed X-chromosome inactivation. While one X-chromosome is inactivated, the other X-chromosome remains active. Moreover, with a few notable exceptions, the originally established epigenetic transcriptional profiles of the two X-chromosomes is maintained as such through many rounds of cell division, essentially for the life of the organism. The stable and divergent transcriptional fates of the two X-chromosomes, despite residing in a shared nucleoplasm, make X-inactivation a paradigm of epigenetic transcriptional regulation. Originally proposed in 1961 by Mary Lyon, the X-inactivation hypothesis has been validated through much experimentation. In the last 25 years, the discovery and functional characterization has firmly established X-linked long noncoding RNAs as key players in choreographing X-chromosome inactivation.


Xist Tsix Polycomb group Jpx Tsx Ftx RepA X-inactivation X-chromosome inactivation Histone modifications Epigenetic regulation 



Embryonic stem cells


X-inactive specific transcript


Polycomb repressive complex 1


Polycomb repressive complex 2


Histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation


Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation


Open reading frame


Short hairpin RNA



The authors wish to thank members of the Kalantry lab for fruitful discussions. Work in the Kalantry lab is funded by the University of Michigan Endowment for the Basic Sciences, NIH, Ellison Medical Foundation, and the March of Dimes.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily Maclary
    • 1
  • Michael Hinten
    • 1
  • Clair Harris
    • 1
  • Sundeep Kalantry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human GeneticsUniversity of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA

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