1Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Stem Cell Institute, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, USA and 2Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore, India
Planarians are bilaterally symmetrical fresh water organisms capable of regenerating body parts from small fragments following bodily injury. Planarians possess a specialized population of pluripotent cells called neoblasts, which are responsible for their unique regenerative ability. The study of planarian stem cell biology and regeneration has traditionally focused on the transcription factors and proteins that regulate signal transduction pathways. New evidence shows that small RNA molecules are important players in stem cell function and regeneration, yet little is known about the exact nature of their regulatory roles during the regenerative process. In this review, we discuss biogenesis of microRNAs and piwiRNAs and their functional role in key developmental pathways in vertebrates and invertebrates with an emphasis on recent studies on planarian small RNA pathways.