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Long non-coding RNA profiling of human lymphoid progenitor cells reveals transcriptional divergence of B cell and T cell lineages

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To elucidate the transcriptional 'landscape' that regulates human lymphoid commitment during postnatal life, we used RNA sequencing to assemble the long non-coding transcriptome across human bone marrow and thymic progenitor cells spanning the earliest stages of B lymphoid and T lymphoid specification. Over 3,000 genes encoding previously unknown long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) were revealed through the analysis of these rare populations. Lymphoid commitment was characterized by lncRNA expression patterns that were highly stage specific and were more lineage specific than those of protein-coding genes. Protein-coding genes co-expressed with neighboring lncRNA genes showed enrichment for ontologies related to lymphoid differentiation. The exquisite cell-type specificity of global lncRNA expression patterns independently revealed new developmental relationships among the earliest progenitor cells in the human bone marrow and thymus.

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