Long Noncoding RNAs and Tumorigenesis


In contrast to the long time, well‐established knowledge about the majority of human genome to be only ‘junk DNA’, it turned out that a great part of it is being pervasively transcribed. Among noncoding transcripts, long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) represent the most prevalent and functionally heterogeneous group of noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). Despite only a few lncRNAs being well characterised, their biological meaning, mechanisms of function and their importance for normal development is being more and more recognised. Many studies in recent years have shown that the changes in lncRNAs expression and function are associated with some fundamental biological processes and various disease states, most notably cancer. In cancer, the function of lncRNAs shows through altered expression patterns in different tumour types and as such they represent potential diagnostic/prognostic biomarkers and new potential targets for cancer treatment.

Key Concepts

  • lncRNAs are important components of numerous biological pathways of cellular growth, cell division and differentiation.
  • lncRNAs directly or indirectly regulate the expression of protein‐coding genes on epigenetic, transcriptional and post‐transcriptional level.
  • Aberrant lncRNA expression leads to cell dysfunction and disease progression.
  • lncRNAs are potential drivers of various diseases, most notably of cancer.
  • They represent useful diagnostic biomarkers and indicators of patient's prognosis.
  • lncRNAs represent ideal candidates for targeted gene therapy.

Keywords: long noncoding RNA; regulatory RNAs; tumorigenesis; oncogenic lncRNAs; tumour suppressor lncRNAs; cancer; biomarkers; therapeutical targets

Figure 1. (a–e) Possible origins of lncRNAs.
Figure 2. lncRNA classification according to their proximity to protein‐coding genes.
Figure 3. LncRNAs and the hallmarks of cancer (adapted upon (Gutschner and Diederichs, )).
Figure 4. LncRNAs act as oncogenes and/or tumour‐suppressors.


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Further Reading

Boštjančič E and Glavač D (2013) MicroRNAs and lncRNAs as tumour suppressors. In: Cheng Y, (ed). Future aspects of tumour suppressor gene, InTech, pp. 45–74.

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Nie L, Wu H‐J, Hsu J‐M, et al. (2012) Long non‐coding RNAs: versatile master regulators of gene expression and crucial players in cancer. American Journal of Translational Research 4 (2): 127–150.

Prensner JR and Chinnaiyan AM (2011) The emergence of lncRNAs in cancer biology. Cancer Discovery 1: 391–407.

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Matjašič, Alenka, and Glavač, Damjan(Feb 2015) Long Noncoding RNAs and Tumorigenesis. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025688]