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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Mar;39(6):2393-403. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq1158. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

Expression of distinct RNAs from 3' untranslated regions.

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Institute for Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


The 3' untranslated regions (3'UTRs) of eukaryotic genes regulate mRNA stability, localization and translation. Here, we present evidence that large numbers of 3'UTRs in human, mouse and fly are also expressed separately from the associated protein-coding sequences to which they are normally linked, likely by post-transcriptional cleavage. Analysis of CAGE (capped analysis of gene expression), SAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) and cDNA libraries, as well as microarray expression profiles, demonstrate that the independent expression of 3'UTRs is a regulated and conserved genome-wide phenomenon. We characterize the expression of several 3'UTR-derived RNAs (uaRNAs) in detail in mouse embryos, showing by in situ hybridization that these transcripts are expressed in a cell- and subcellular-specific manner. Our results suggest that 3'UTR sequences can function not only in cis to regulate protein expression, but also intrinsically and independently in trans, likely as noncoding RNAs, a conclusion supported by a number of previous genetic studies. Our findings suggest novel functions for 3'UTRs, as well as caution in the use of 3'UTR sequence probes to analyze gene expression.

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