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Med Sci (Paris). 2020 Jan;36(1):38-43. doi: 10.1051/medsci/2019267. Epub 2020 Feb 4.

[Do circular RNAs play tricks on us?]

[Article in French; Abstract available in French from the publisher]

Author information

UMR 1048-I2MC (Institut des maladies métaboliques et cardiovasculaires), Inserm, Université de Toulouse, UT3, Toulouse, France.


in English, French

RNA has not said its last word with the rise of a new RNA family, circular RNAs (circRNAs). Discovered 25 years ago, circRNAs were initially considered as splicing byproducts. Today it appears that 14% of human genes produce circRNAs, whereas more than 100 000 different circRNAs are expressed. They are produced from coding genes through an alternative splicing mechanism called backsplicing, where an acceptor site is linked with a donor site located downstream. Nuclear circRNAs regulate transcription and splicing of their linear isoform. Cytoplasmic circRNAs, which are predominant, either sequester miRNAs or RNA binding proteins, or are translated via internal initiation mechanisms. CircRNAs may constitute a powerful biotechnogical tool for protein synthesis, as their translation is stable over time. In addition, exogenous circRNAs generate less immune response than their linear counterparts. We will also discuss in this review their biotechnological potential and their roles in pathological processes.


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