Defining the molecular profile of planarian pluripotent stem cells using a combinatorial RNAseq, RNA interference and irradiation approach.

Centre for Genetics and Genomics, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, UK.
Genome biology (Impact Factor: 10.47). 03/2012; 13(3):R19. DOI: 10.1186/gb-2012-13-3-r19
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Planarian stem cells, or neoblasts, drive the almost unlimited regeneration capacities of freshwater planarians. Neoblasts are traditionally described by their morphological features and by the fact that they are the only proliferative cell type in asexual planarians. Therefore, they can be specifically eliminated by irradiation. Irradiation, however, is likely to induce transcriptome-wide changes in gene expression that are not associated with neoblast ablation. This has affected the accurate description of their specific transcriptomic profile.
We introduce the use of Smed-histone-2B RNA interference (RNAi) for genetic ablation of neoblast cells in Schmidtea mediterranea as an alternative to irradiation. We characterize the rapid, neoblast-specific phenotype induced by Smed-histone-2B RNAi, resulting in neoblast ablation. We compare and triangulate RNA-seq data after using both irradiation and Smed-histone-2B RNAi over a time course as means of neoblast ablation. Our analyses show that Smed-histone-2B RNAi eliminates neoblast gene expression with high specificity and discrimination from gene expression in other cellular compartments. We compile a high confidence list of genes downregulated by both irradiation and Smed-histone-2B RNAi and validate their expression in neoblast cells. Lastly, we analyze the overall expression profile of neoblast cells.
Our list of neoblast genes parallels their morphological features and is highly enriched for nuclear components, chromatin remodeling factors, RNA splicing factors, RNA granule components and the machinery of cell division. Our data reveal that the regulation of planarian stem cells relies on posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms and suggest that planarians are an ideal model for this understudied aspect of stem cell biology.

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    ABSTRACT: Planarians are an important model organism for regeneration and stem cell research. A complete understanding of stem cell and regeneration dynamics in these animals requires time-lapse imaging in vivo, which has been difficult to achieve due to a lack of tissue-specific markers and the strong negative phototaxis of planarians. We have developed the Planarian Immobilization Chip (PIC) for rapid, stable immobilization of planarians for in vivo imaging without injury or biochemical alteration. The chip is easy and inexpensive to fabricate, and worms can be mounted for and removed after imaging within minutes. We show that the PIC enables significantly higher-stability immobilization than can be achieved with standard techniques, allowing for imaging of planarians at sub-cellular resolution in vivo using brightfield and fluorescence microscopy. We validate the performance of the PIC by performing time-lapse imaging of planarian wound closure and sequential imaging over days of head regeneration. We further show that the device can be used to immobilize Hydra, another photophobic regenerative model organism. The simple fabrication, low cost, ease of use, and enhanced specimen stability of the PIC should enable its broad application to in vivo studies of stem cell and regeneration dynamics in planarians and Hydra.
    Scientific Reports 09/2014; 4:6388. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Planarians are flatworms capable of regenerating any missing body region. This capacity is mediated by neoblasts, a proliferative cell population that contains pluripotent stem cells. Although population-based studies have revealed many neoblast characteristics, whether functionally distinct classes exist within this population is unclear. Here, we used high-dimensional single-cell transcriptional profiling from over a thousand individual neoblasts to directly compare gene expression fingerprints during homeostasis and regeneration. We identified two prominent neoblast classes that we named ζ (zeta) and σ (sigma). Zeta-neoblasts encompass specified cells that give rise to an abundant postmitotic lineage, including epidermal cells, and are not required for regeneration. By contrast, sigma-neoblasts proliferate in response to injury, possess broad lineage capacity, and can give rise to zeta-neoblasts. These findings indicate that planarian neoblasts comprise two major and functionally distinct cellular compartments.
    Cell stem cell. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Neglected diseases caused by helminth infections impose a massive hindrance to progress in the developing world. While basic research on parasitic flatworms (platyhelminths) continues to expand, researchers have yet to broadly adopt a free-living model to complement the study of these important parasites. Methods: We report the high-coverage sequencing (RNA-Seq) and assembly of the transcriptome of the planarian Girardia tigrina across a set of dynamic conditions. The assembly was annotated and extensive orthology analysis was used to seed a pipeline for the rational prioritization and validation of putative anthelmintic targets. A small number of targets conserved between parasitic and free-living flatworms were comparatively interrogated. Results: 240 million paired-end reads were assembled de novo to produce a strictly filtered predicted proteome consisting of over 22,000 proteins. Gene Ontology annotations were extended to 16,467 proteins. 2,693 sequences were identified in orthology groups spanning flukes, tapeworms and planaria, with 441 highlighted as belonging to druggable protein families. Chemical inhibitors were used on three targets in pharmacological screens using both planaria and schistosomula, revealing distinct motility phenotypes that were shown to correlate with planarian RNAi phenotypes. Conclusions: This work provides the first comprehensive and annotated sequence resource for the model planarian G. tigrina, alongside a prioritized list of candidate drug targets conserved among parasitic and free-living flatworms. As proof of principle, we show that a simple RNAi and pharmacology pipeline in the more convenient planarian model system can inform parasite biology and serve as an efficient screening tool for the identification of lucrative anthelmintic targets.
    Parasites & Vectors 01/2015; 8(34). · 3.25 Impact Factor

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