The maintenance of stem cell pluripotency is dependent on the regulation of key genes. The regulation of gene expression occurs at multiple levels and involves both transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms.
We previously discovered that a non-microRNA function of the microprocessor complex is critical for the pluripotency of stem cells. This microprocessor complex is best known for its role in microRNA biogenesis, but in stem cells, it also recognises and degrades mRNAs that would otherwise impair pluripotency. At a superficial level, these mRNA targets of the microprocessor appear to resemble microRNA precursors. However, they are not processed into microRNAs.
Computational analyses suggest that mRNA targets and microRNA precursors differ in several fine-structural and sequence features. The goal of this project is to experimentally-validate these predicted features. This will ultimately allow us to understand how stem cell pluripotency is maintained.