Stem cell fate determination through protein O-GlcNAcylation

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Embryonic and adult stem cells possess the capability of self-renewal and lineage-specific differentiation. The intricate balance between self-renewal and differentiation is governed by developmental signals and cell-type-specific gene regulatory mechanisms. A perturbed intra/extracellular environment during lineage specification could affect stem cell fate decisions resulting in pathology. Growing evidence demonstrates that metabolic pathways govern epigenetic regulation of gene expression during stem cell fate commitment through the utilization of metabolic intermediates or end products of metabolic pathways as substrates for enzymatic histone/DNA modifications. UDP-GlcNAc is one such metabolite that acts as a substrate for enzymatic mono-glycosylation of various nuclear, cytosolic, and mitochondrial proteins on serine/threonine amino acid residues, a process termed protein O-GlcNAcylation. The levels of GlcNAc inside the cells depend on the nutrient availability, especially glucose. Thus, this metabolic sensor could modulate gene expression through O-GlcNAc modification of histones or other proteins in response to metabolic fluctuations. Herein, we review evidence demonstrating how stem cells couple metabolic inputs to gene regulatory pathways through O-GlcNAc-mediated epigenetic/ transcriptional regulatory mechanisms to govern self-renewal and lineage-specific differentiation programs. This review will serve as a primer for researchers seeking to better understand how O-GlcNAc influences stemness and may catalyze the discovery of new stem-cell-based therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100035
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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