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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The long noncoding RNA RNCR2 directs mouse retinal cell specification

Nicole A Rapicavoli, Erin M Poth and Seth Blackshaw*

Author Affiliations

Department of Neuroscience, Neurology and Ophthalmology, Center for High-Throughput Biology and Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 733 N. Broadway Avenue, Baltimore, MD USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:49  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-49

Published: 11 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Recent work has identified that many long mRNA-like noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are expressed in the developing nervous system. Despite their abundance, the function of these ncRNAs has remained largely unexplored. We have investigated the highly abundant lncRNA RNCR2 in regulation of mouse retinal cell differentiation.

Results

We find that the RNCR2 is selectively expressed in a subset of both mitotic progenitors and postmitotic retinal precursor cells. ShRNA-mediated knockdown of RNCR2 results in an increase of both amacrine cells and Müller glia, indicating a role for this lncRNA in regulating retinal cell fate specification. We further report that RNCR2 RNA, which is normally nuclear-retained, can be exported from the nucleus when fused to an IRES-GFP sequence. Overexpression of RNCR2-IRES-GFP phenocopies the effects of shRNA-mediated knockdown of RNCR2, implying that forced mislocalization of RNCR2 induces a dominant-negative phenotype. Finally, we use the IRES-GFP fusion approach to identify specific domains of RNCR2 that are required for repressing both amacrine and Müller glial differentiation.

Conclusion

These data demonstrate that the lncRNA RNCR2 plays a critical role in regulating mammalian retinal cell fate specification. Furthermore, we present a novel approach for generating dominant-negative constructs of lncRNAs, which may be generally useful in the functional analysis of this class of molecules.