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DNA Res. 2010 Apr;17(2):51-9. doi: 10.1093/dnares/dsq006. Epub 2010 Mar 7.

RNA dust: where are the genes?

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Omics Science Center, RIKEN Yokohama Institute, Kanagawa, Japan.


Initial gene discovery efforts through analysis of genome sequences and identification and characterization of expressed RNAs have revealed that only a relatively small portion of the genome is transcribed into protein coding mRNAs in vertebrates. However, in contrast with this paucity of protein coding 'genes', there is an enormous complexity in transcription and the protein coding mRNAs contribute to a very small fraction of transcripts in comparison with the different varieties of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). This transcriptome complexity may be hypothesized to have a regulatory role that is required for the development and function of organisms as complex as vertebrates. At the same time, it raises the fundamental question of the unequivocal definition of a gene. It is intriguing to postulate that many ncRNAs might finely modulate gene activity by acting as regulatory elements. The emerging hypotheses suggest that the gene regulatory machinery may be deeply interconnected with the world of short RNAs. These RNAs may generally act for fine-tuning of the protein-coding transcriptome.

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