Transcription profiling during the cell cycle shows that a subset of Polycomb-targeted genes is upregulated during DNA replication

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Genome-wide gene expression analyses of the human somatic cell cycle have indicated that the set of cycling genes differ between primary and cancer cells. By identifying genes that have cell cycle dependent expression in HaCaT human keratinocytes and comparing these with previously identified cell cycle genes, we have identified three distinct groups of cell cycle genes. First, housekeeping genes enriched for known cell cycle functions; second, cell type-specific genes enriched for HaCaT-specific functions; and third, Polycomb-regulated genes. These Polycomb-regulated genes are specifically upregulated during DNA replication, and consistent with being epigenetically silenced in other cell cycle phases, these genes have lower expression than other cell cycle genes. We also find similar patterns in foreskin fibroblasts, indicating that replication-dependent expression of Polycomb-silenced genes is a prevalent but unrecognized regulatory mechanism.

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