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Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Sep 19;46(16):8168-8180. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky721.

Circular RNA expression in human hematopoietic cells is widespread and cell-type specific.

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Department of Hematopoiesis, Sanquin Research and Landsteiner Laboratory, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Plesmanlaan 125, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Hematopoietic stem cells differentiate into a broad range of specialized blood cells. This process is tightly regulated and depends on transcription factors, micro-RNAs, and long non-coding RNAs. Recently, also circular RNA (circRNA) were found to regulate cellular processes. Their expression pattern and their identity is however less well defined. Here, we provide the first comprehensive analysis of circRNA expression in human hematopoietic progenitors, and in differentiated lymphoid and myeloid cells. We here show that the expression of circRNA is cell-type specific, and increases upon maturation. CircRNA splicing variants can also be cell-type specific. Furthermore, nucleated hematopoietic cells contain circRNA that have higher expression levels than the corresponding linear RNA. Enucleated blood cells, i.e. platelets and erythrocytes, were suggested to use RNA to maintain their function, respond to environmental factors or to transmit signals to other cells via microvesicles. Here we show that platelets and erythrocytes contain the highest number of circRNA of all hematopoietic cells, and that the type and numbers of circRNA changes during maturation. This cell-type specific expression pattern of circRNA in hematopoietic cells suggests a hithero unappreciated role in differentiation and cellular function.

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