The interplay between extrinsic signaling and downstream gene networks controls the establishment of cell identity during development and its maintenance in adult life. Advances in next-generation sequencing and single-cell technologies have revealed additional layers of complexity in cell identity. Here, we review our current understanding of transcription factor (TF) networks as key determinants of cell identity. We discuss the concept of the core regulatory circuit as a set of TFs and interacting factors that together define the gene expression profile of the cell. We propose the core regulatory circuit as a comprehensive conceptual framework for defining cellular identity and discuss its connections to cell function in different contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere106785
Pages (from-to)e106785
JournalThe EMBO journal
Issue number10
Early online date2 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021


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