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Oligonucleotides. 2009 Dec;19(4):299-306. doi: 10.1089/oli.2009.0212.

RNA-directed transcriptional gene silencing and activation in human cells.

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Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The overt loss or uncontrolled gain of gene expression is found at some level in virtually every malady afflicting humans. From cancer to HIV-1, the uncontrolled expression or loss of gene expression is prevalent in human diseases. Approaches toward the specific control of gene expression at the transcriptional level could have the potential to revert or reduce disease pathologies. Over the last several years, researchers have developed methodologies that utilize small antisense non-coding RNAs to specifically silence transcription. Only recently has the endogenous molecular pathway usurped by the introduction of these small RNAs to regulate transcription in human cells been defined. Observations suggest that long antisense non-coding RNAs function as the endogenous epigenetic regulators of transcription in human cells, thus explaining why small antisense RNAs were observed early on to silence transcription via directed epigenetic changes at the target loci. The mechanism of action whereby small regulatory RNAs can either turn gene transcription on or off will be discussed as evidence that one day it may be possible to develop therapeutics to regulate gene transcription and ameliorate particular disease conditions.

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