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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30660. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030660. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Hymyc1 downregulation promotes stem cell proliferation in Hydra vulgaris.

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Istituto di Cibernetica E Caianiello, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Pozzuoli, Italy.


Hydra is a unique model for studying the mechanisms underlying stem cell biology. The activity of the three stem cell lineages structuring its body constantly replenishes mature cells lost due to normal tissue turnover. By a poorly understood mechanism, stem cells are maintained through self-renewal while concomitantly producing differentiated progeny. In vertebrates, one of many genes that participate in regulating stem cell homeostasis is the protooncogene c-myc, which has been recently identified also in Hydra, and found expressed in the interstitial stem cell lineage. In the present paper, by developing a novel strategy of RNA interference-mediated gene silencing (RNAi) based on an enhanced uptake of small interfering RNAi (siRNA), we provide molecular and biological evidence for an unexpected function of the Hydra myc gene (Hymyc1) in the homeostasis of the interstitial stem cell lineage. We found that Hymyc1 inhibition impairs the balance between stem cell self renewal/differentiation, as shown by the accumulation of stem cell intermediate and terminal differentiation products in genetically interfered animals. The identical phenotype induced by the 10058-F4 inhibitor, a disruptor of c-Myc/Max dimerization, demonstrates the specificity of the RNAi approach. We show the kinetic and the reversible feature of Hymyc1 RNAi, together with the effects displayed on regenerating animals. Our results show the involvement of Hymyc1 in the control of interstitial stem cell dynamics, provide new clues to decipher the molecular control of the cell and tissue plasticity in Hydra, and also provide further insights into the complex myc network in higher organisms. The ability of Hydra cells to uptake double stranded RNA and to trigger a RNAi response lays the foundations of a comprehensive analysis of the RNAi response in Hydra allowing us to track back in the evolution and the origin of this process.

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