Deciphering the molecular machinery of stem cells: A look at the neoblast gene expression profile

Leonardo Rossi, Alessandra Salvetti, Francesco M. Marincola, Annalisa Lena, Paolo Deri, Linda Mannini, Renata Batistoni, Ena Wang, Vittorio Gremigni

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Background: Mammalian stem cells are difficult to access experimentally; model systems that can regenerate offer an alternative way to characterize stem cell related genes. Planarian regeneration depends on adult pluripotent stem cells - the neoblasts. These cells can be selectively destroyed using X-rays, enabling comparison of organisms lacking stem cells with wild-type worms. Results: Using a genomic approach we produced an oligonucleotide microarray chip (the Dj600 chip), which was designed using selected planarian gene sequences. Using this chip, we compared planarians treated with high doses of X-rays (which eliminates all neoblasts) with wild-type worms, which led to identification of a set of putatively neoblast-restricted genes. Most of these genes are involved in chromatin modeling and RNA metabolism, suggesting that epigenetic modifications and post-transcriptional regulation are pivotal in neoblast regulation. Comparing planarians treated with low doses of X-rays (after which some radiotolerant neoblasts re-populate the planarian body) with specimens irradiated with high doses and unirradiated control worms, we identified a group of genes that were upregulated as a consequence of low-dose X-ray treatment. Most of these genes encode proteins that are known to regulate the balance between death and survival of the cell; our results thus suggest that genetic programs that control neoblast cytoprotection, proliferation, and migration are activated by low-dose X-rays. Conclusion: The broad differentiation potential of planarian neoblasts is unparalleled by any adult stem cells in the animal kingdom. In addition to our validation of the Dj600 chip as a valuable platform, our work contributes to elucidating the molecular mechanisms that regulate the self-renewal and differentiation of neoblasts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberR62
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Rossi, L., Salvetti, A., Marincola, F. M., Lena, A., Deri, P., Mannini, L., Batistoni, R., Wang, E., & Gremigni, V. (2007). Deciphering the molecular machinery of stem cells: A look at the neoblast gene expression profile. Genome Biology, 8(4), [R62].