As our understanding of transcriptional regulation improves so does our appreciation of its complexity. Both coding and (long) non-coding RNAs provide cells with multiple levels of control and thereby flexibility to adapt gene expression to the environment. However, few long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been studied in human epidermal stem cells. Here, we characterized the expression of 26 lncRNAs in human epidermal keratinocytes, 7 of which we found to be dynamically expressed during differentiation. We performed in depth analysis of a lncRNA located proximal to the epidermal stem cell marker integrin beta-1 (ITGB1) and transcribed in the opposite direction. We dubbed this gene Beta1-adjacent long non-coding RNA, or BLNCR, and found that its expression is regulated by p63 and AP1 transcription factors. Furthermore, BLNCR expression is regulated downstream the integrin and EGF signaling pathways that are key to epidermal stem cell maintenance. Finally, we found that BLNCR expression is rapidly reduced upon induction of differentiation, preceding the down regulation of integrin beta-1 expression. These dynamics closely mirror the loss of proliferative and adhesion capacity of epidermal stem cells in colony formation assays. Together, these results suggest that loss of BLNCR expression marks the switch from a proliferative state towards terminal differentiation in human epidermal stem cells.
Supplementary notes can be added here, including code, math, and images.