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Cell. 2014 Mar 27;157(1):77-94. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.008.

The noncoding RNA revolution-trashing old rules to forge new ones.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA. Electronic address:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.


Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) accomplish a remarkable variety of biological functions. They regulate gene expression at the levels of transcription, RNA processing, and translation. They protect genomes from foreign nucleic acids. They can guide DNA synthesis or genome rearrangement. For ribozymes and riboswitches, the RNA structure itself provides the biological function, but most ncRNAs operate as RNA-protein complexes, including ribosomes, snRNPs, snoRNPs, telomerase, microRNAs, and long ncRNAs. Many, though not all, ncRNAs exploit the power of base pairing to selectively bind and act on other nucleic acids. Here, we describe the pathway of ncRNA research, where every established "rule" seems destined to be overturned.

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