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Biochem Cell Biol. 2007 Aug;85(4):484-96.

Noncoding but nonexpendable: transcriptional regulation by large noncoding RNA in eukaryotes.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of AK Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA.


Genome sequencing and annotation has advanced our understanding of genome organization and gene structure but initially only allowed predictions of how many genes might be present. Mechanisms such as alternative splicing reveal that these predictions only scratch the surface of the true nature of the transcriptome. Several thousand expressed partial gene fragments have been cloned but were considered transcriptional noise or cloning artifacts. We now know that genomes are indeed expressed at much higher levels than was previously predicted, and much of the additional transcription maps to intergenic regions, intron sequences, and untranslated regions of mRNAs. These transcripts are expressed from either the sense or the antisense strand and can be confirmed by conventional techniques. In addition to the already established roles for small RNAs in gene regulation, large noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) are also emerging as potent regulators of gene expression. In this review, we summarize several illustrative examples of gene regulatory mechanisms that involve large ncRNAs. We describe several distinct regulatory mechanisms that involve large ncRNAs, such as transcriptional interference and promoter inactivation, as well as indirect effects on transcription regulatory proteins and in genomic imprinting. These diverse functions for large ncRNAs are likely to be only the first of many novel regulatory mechanisms emerging from this growing field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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