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Biochimie. 2011 Apr;93(4):633-44. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2010.11.004. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

When one is better than two: RNA with dual functions.

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Université Paris Diderot, CNRS UMR7216, Epigenetics and Cell Fate, Paris, France.


The central dogma of biology, until not long ago, held that genetic information stored on DNA molecules was translated into the final protein products through RNA as intermediate molecules. Then, an additional level of complexity in the regulation of genome expression was added, implicating new classes of RNA molecules called non-coding RNA (ncRNA). These ncRNA are also often referred to as functional RNA in that, although they do not contain the capacity to encode proteins, do have a function as RNA molecules. They have been thus far considered as truly non-coding RNA since no ORF long enough to be considered, nor protein, have been associated with them. However, the recent identification and characterization of bifunctional RNA, i.e. RNA for which both coding capacity and activity as functional RNA have been reported, suggests that a definite categorization of some RNA molecules is far from being straightforward. Indeed, several RNA primarily classified as non-protein-coding RNA has been showed to hold coding capacities and associated peptides. Conversely, mRNA, usually regarded as strictly protein-coding, may act as functional RNA molecules. Here, we describe several examples of these bifunctional RNA that have been already characterized from bacteria to mammals. We also extend this concept to fortuitous acquisition of dual function in pathological conditions and to the recently highlighted duality between information carried by a gene and its pseudogenes counterparts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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