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PLoS Genet. 2010 Aug 19;6(8):e1001070. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001070.

The transcriptomes of two heritable cell types illuminate the circuit governing their differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Abstract

The differentiation of cells into distinct cell types, each of which is heritable for many generations, underlies many biological phenomena. White and opaque cells of the fungal pathogen Candida albicans are two such heritable cell types, each thought to be adapted to unique niches within their human host. To systematically investigate their differences, we performed strand-specific, massively-parallel sequencing of RNA from C. albicans white and opaque cells. With these data we first annotated the C. albicans transcriptome, finding hundreds of novel differentially-expressed transcripts. Using the new annotation, we compared differences in transcript abundance between the two cell types with the genomic regions bound by a master regulator of the white-opaque switch (Wor1). We found that the revised transcriptional landscape considerably alters our understanding of the circuit governing differentiation. In particular, we can now resolve the poor concordance between binding of a master regulator and the differential expression of adjacent genes, a discrepancy observed in several other studies of cell differentiation. More than one third of the Wor1-bound differentially-expressed transcripts were previously unannotated, which explains the formerly puzzling presence of Wor1 at these positions along the genome. Many of these newly identified Wor1-regulated genes are non-coding and transcribed antisense to coding transcripts. We also find that 5' and 3' UTRs of mRNAs in the circuit are unusually long and that 5' UTRs often differ in length between cell-types, suggesting UTRs encode important regulatory information and that use of alternative promoters is widespread. Further analysis revealed that the revised Wor1 circuit bears several striking similarities to the Oct4 circuit that specifies the pluripotency of mammalian embryonic stem cells. Additional characteristics shared with the Oct4 circuit suggest a set of general hallmarks characteristic of heritable differentiation states in eukaryotes.

PMID:
20808890
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2924316
Free PMC Article
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