Noncoding RNAs in Biology and Disease


Regulatory noncoding ribonucleic acids (ncRNAs) play a pivotal role in the control of gene expression in all organisms. The molecular processes controlled by ncRNAs include virtually all steps of transmission of genetic information from deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to protein. They affect the structure of chromatin, activity of transcription factors, posttranscriptional modifications and the stabilty of RNA. In mammals, noncoding transcripts have been linked to regulation of many cellular mechanisms and their proper expression is crucial for normal development, growth differentiation and the maintenance of cells identity. Epigenetic and genetic aberrations disrupting ncRNA genes or changing their expression profiles often result in pathologies including developmental defects, neurobehavioural illness, cancer and other diseases. The progress in identification of novel RNA‚Äźdependent molecular mechanisms and their medical implications makes ncRNAs attractive targets for development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Key Concepts

  • Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) constitute a significant fraction of a total transcription from the human genome.

  • NcRNAs are key factors in setting up and maintaining epigenetic marks that are crucial for correct expression of genetic information.

  • NcRNAs regulate expression of genes by influencing the activity of transcriptional machinery.

  • The stability and translation of numerous mRNAs involved in cells growth and proliferation is controlled by microRNAs.

  • Correct expression of imprinted gene clusters depends on chromatin modifications guided by ncRNAs.

  • Aberrant expression of ncRNAs is often associated with human diseases.

  • Expression profiles of ncRNAs provide valuable information for molecular diagnostics.

Keywords: noncoding RNAs; riboregulators; cancer; imprinting; epigenetics

Figure 1.

The flow of genetic information (black arrows) and the regulatory interactions with noncoding RNAs (red arrows).



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Further Reading

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Szymański, Maciej, and Barciszewski, Jan(Mar 2009) Noncoding RNAs in Biology and Disease. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021437]