Glioblastomas show heterogeneous histological features. These distinct phenotypic states are thought to be associated with the presence of glioma stem cells (GSCs), which are highly tumorigenic and self-renewing sub-population of tumor cells that have different functional characteristics. Differentiation of GSCs may be regulated by multi-tiered epigenetic mechanisms that orchestrate the expression of thousands of genes. One such regulatory mechanism involves functional non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), such as microRNAs (miRNAs); a large number of ncRNAs have been identified and shown to regulate the expression of genes associated with cell differentiation programs. Given the roles of miRNAs in cell differentiation, it is possible they are involved in the regulation of gene expression networks in GSCs that are important for the maintenance of the pluripotent state and for directing differentiation. Here, we review recent findings on ncRNAs associated with GSC differentiation and discuss how these ncRNAs contribute to the establishment of tissue heterogeneity during glioblastoma tumor formation.
Keywords: cancer stem cells; epigenetics; glioma; long non-coding RNA; micro RNA.