During kidney development the cap mesenchyme progenitor cells both self renew and differentiate into nephrons. The balance between renewal and differentiation determines the final nephron count, which is of considerable medical importance. An important goal is to create a precise genetic definition of the early differentiation of cap mesenchyme progenitors. We used RNA-Seq to transcriptional profile the cap mesenchyme progenitors and their first epithelial derivative, the renal vesicles. The results provide a global view of the changing gene expression program during this key period, defining expression levels for all transcription factors, growth factors, and receptors. The RNA-Seq was performed using two different biochemistries, with one examining only polyadenylated RNA and the other total RNA. This allowed the analysis of noncanonical transcripts, which for many genes were more abundant than standard exonic RNAs. Since a large fraction of enhancers are now known to be transcribed the results also provide global maps of potential enhancers. Further, the RNA-Seq data defined hundreds of novel splice patterns and large numbers of new genes. Particularly striking was the extensive sense/antisense transcription and changing RNA processing complexities of the Hox clusters.
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