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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 623978, 12 pages
Review Article

Functions of Heterogeneous Nuclear Ribonucleoproteins in Stem Cell Potency and Differentiation

1Department of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, 79 Qingchun Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310003, China
2Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, Women’s Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, 1 Xueshi Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310006, China
3Centre for Clinical Pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London EC1M 6BQ, UK

Received 29 April 2013; Revised 2 July 2013; Accepted 4 July 2013

Academic Editor: Jerome Moreaux

Copyright © 2013 Qishan Chen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Stem cells possess huge importance in developmental biology, disease modelling, cell replacement therapy, and tissue engineering in regenerative medicine because they have the remarkable potential for self-renewal and to differentiate into almost all the cell types in the human body. Elucidation of molecular mechanisms regulating stem cell potency and differentiation is essential and critical for extensive application. Heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) are modular proteins consisting of RNA-binding motifs and auxiliary domains characterized by extensive and divergent functions in nucleic acid metabolism. Multiple roles of hnRNPs in transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation enable them to be effective gene expression regulators. More recent findings show that hnRNP proteins are crucial factors implicated in maintenance of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency and cell differentiation. The hnRNPs interact with certain sequences in target gene promoter regions to initiate transcription. In addition, they recognize 3′UTR or 5′UTR of specific gene mRNA forming mRNP complex to regulate mRNA stability and translation. Both of these regulatory pathways lead to modulation of gene expression that is associated with stem cell proliferation, cell cycle control, pluripotency, and committed differentiation.