long non-coding RNAs in pluripotency and cell differentiation

The transition from a pluripotent to a differentiated state coincides with major changes in the chromatin state of the cell. Chromatin modification (e.g. by Polycomb complexes and MLL), chromatin remodelling (e.g. by Mediator), and changes in overall nuclear architecture, cooperatively restructure the nuclear organization of the differentiating cell. Most of the enzymes involved in these processes however do not recognize specific sequence motifs, and their targets differ based on the lineage choice of the cell. It is therefore unclear how these complexes identify specific genomic regions as their targets. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), which typically show tissue-specific expression, have been found to bind several chromatin-related complexes and could provide them with sequence specificity. They are therefore premier candidates to orchestrate chromatin reorganization during early differentiation.

We have identified lncRNAs that are specifically expressed in planarian neoblasts and use a variety of molecular approaches to analyze the role of these lncRNAs in cell differentiation, and neoblast biology.