Spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing is a biological phenomenon, common among many metazoan taxa, consisting in the transfer of a short leader sequence from a small SL RNA to the 5′ end of a subset of pre-mRNAs. While knowledge of the biochemical mechanisms driving this process has accumulated over the years, the functional consequences of such post-transcriptional event at the organismal level remain unclear. In addition, the fact that functional analyses have been undertaken mainly in trypanosomes and nematodes, leaves a somehow fragmented picture of the possible biological significance and evolution of SL trans-splicing in eukaryotes. Here, we analyzed the spatial expression of SL RNAs in the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea, with the goal of identifying novel developmental paradigms for the study of trans-splicing in metazoans. Besides the previously identified SL1 and SL2, S. mediterranea expresses a third SL RNA described here as SL3. While, SL1 and SL2 are collectively expressed in a broad range of planarian cell types, SL3 is highly enriched in a subset of the planarian stem cells engaged in regenerative responses. Our findings provide new opportunities to study how trans-splicing may regulate the phenotype of a cell.
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