Research: lncRNA affects apoptosis and plays a role in RBC development

May 07, 2017

To determine its function, Hu halted expression of lincRNA-EPS in maturing red blood cells; the cells died as they began the differentiation process. Then Hu expressed lincRNA-EPS in maturing red blood cells and grew these cells in the absence of the hormone erythropoietin, which normally prevents the blood cell progenitors from undergoing apoptosis. Instead of dying as expected from the lack of erythropoietin, the cells with lincRNA-EPS continued to live, indicating that lincRNA-EPS by itself can prevent apoptosis.

After further investigation, Hu found that lincRNA-EPS inhibits the expression of Pycard, a gene that promotes programmed cell death, explaining in part lincRNA-EPS's role in apoptosis prevention.

"These experiments indicate that the normal function of this lncRNA is to protect the red blood cells from death during the last step of differentiation," says Hu. "This is important because the final step of red blood cell maturation is the expulsion of the nucleus from the cell, which in many ways mimics apoptosis. This lncRNA and other factors make sure the cell can get rid of the nucleus and differentiate properly and that it does not go through apoptosis."

Because programmed cell death goes awry in leukemias and other cancers, Hu is currently examining lincRNA-EPS's function in normal and diseased human cells in an effort to determine whether it plays a role in tumor development and growth.

Source: Whitehead Institute