Post-transcriptional regulation in hematopoiesis: RNA binding proteins take control
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Normal hematopoiesis is sustained through a carefully orchestrated balance between hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal and differentiation. The functional importance of this axis is underscored by the severity of disease phenotypes initiated by abnormal HSC function, including myelodysplastic syndromes and hematopoietic malignancies. Major advances in the understanding of transcriptional regulation of primitive hematopoietic cells have been achieved; however, the post-transcriptional regulatory layer that may impinge on their behavior remains underexplored by comparison. Key players at this level include RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), which execute precise and highly coordinated control of gene expression through modulation of RNA properties that include its splicing, polyadenylation, localization, degradation, or translation. With the recent identification of RBPs having essential roles in regulating proliferation and cell fate decisions in other systems, there has been an increasing appreciation of the importance of post-transcriptional control at the stem cell level. Here we discuss our current understanding of RBP-driven post-transcriptional regulation in HSCs, its implications for normal, perturbed, and malignant hematopoiesis, and the most recent technological innovations aimed at RBP-RNA network characterization at the systems level. Emerging evidence highlights RBP-driven control as an underappreciated feature of primitive hematopoiesis, the greater understanding of which has important clinical implications.
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