The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 103 - 116 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 1-2-3

Special Issue: The Planaria Model System

Global irradiation effects, stem cell genes and rare transcripts in the planarian transcriptome

Published: 15 March 2012

Mireille Galloni*

University of Montpellier 2 and CNRS UMR 5237, Montpellier, France


Stem cells are the closest relatives of the totipotent primordial cell, which is able to spawn millions of daughter cells and hundreds of cell types in multicellular organisms. Stem cells are involved in tissue homeostasis and regeneration, and may play a major role in cancer development. Among animals, planarians host a model stem cell type, called the neoblast, which essentially confers immortality. Gaining insights into the global transcriptional landscape of these exceptional cells takes an unprecedented turn with the advent of Next Generation Sequencing methods. Two Digital Gene Expression transcriptomes of Schmidtea mediterranea planarians, with or without neoblasts lost through irradiation, were produced and analyzed. Twenty one bp NlaIII tags were mapped to transcripts in the Schmidtea and Dugesia taxids. Differential representation of tags in normal versus irradiated animals reflects differential gene expression. Canonical and non-canonical tags were included in the analysis, and comparative studies with human orthologs were conducted. Transcripts fell into 3 categories: invariant (including housekeeping genes), absent in irradiated animals (potential neoblast-specific genes, IRDOWN) and induced in irradiated animals (potential cellular stress response, IRUP). Different mRNA variants and gene family members were recovered. In the IR-DOWN class, almost all of the neoblast-specific genes previously described were found. In irra-diated animals, a larger number of genes were induced rather than lost. A significant fraction of IRUP genes behaved as if transcript versions of different lengths were produced. Several novel potential neoblast-specific genes have been identified that varied in relative abundance, including highly conserved as well as novel proteins without predicted orthologs. Evidence for a large body of antisense transcripts, for example regulated antisense for the Smed-piwil1 gene, and evidence for RNA shortening in irradiated animals is presented. Novel neoblast-specific candidates include a peroxiredoxin protein that appears to be preferentially expressed in human embryonic stem cells.


planarian, DGE, irradiation, neoblast, mRNA variant

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