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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2010;75:325-31. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2010.75.058. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Long noncoding RNAs as enhancers of gene expression.

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  • 1The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


The human genome contains thousands of long noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) transcribed from diverse genomic locations. A large set of long ncRNAs is transcribed independent of protein-coding genes. We have used the GENCODE annotation of the human genome to identify 3019 long ncRNAs expressed in various human cell lines and tissue. This set of long ncRNAs responds to differentiation signals in primary human keratinocytes and is coexpressed with important regulators of keratinocyte development. Depletion of a number of these long ncRNAs leads to the repression of specific genes in their surrounding locus, supportive of an activating function for ncRNAs. Using reporter assays, we confirmed such activating function and show that such transcriptional enhancement is mediated through the long ncRNA transcripts. Our studies show that long ncRNAs exhibit functions similar to classically defined enhancers, through an RNA-dependent mechanism.

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