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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2003 Jun;15(3):281-9.

Epigenetic gene regulation by noncoding RNAs.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California San Francisco, Genentech Hall, Room S374, 600 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94143-2200, USA.

Erratum in

  • Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2003 Aug;15(4):504.


Functional noncoding RNAs have distinct roles in epigenetic gene regulation. Large RNAs have been shown to control gene expression from a single locus (Tsix RNA), from chromosomal regions (Air RNA), and from entire chromosomes (roX and Xist RNAs). These RNAs regulate genes in cis; although the Drosophila roX RNAs can also function in trans. The chromatin modifications mediated by these RNAs can increase or decrease gene expression. These results suggest that the primary role of RNA molecules in epigenetic gene regulation is to restrict chromatin modifications to particular regions of the genome. However, given that RNA has been shown to be at the catalytic core of other ribonucleoprotein complexes, it is also possible that RNA also plays a role in modulating changes in chromatin structure.

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