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lincRNA: Long, Non-Coding RNA from Between the Genes

Posted by The Protein Man on Oct 5, 2023 11:46:21 AM
The Protein Man

Some Very Useful Junk

Researchers once regarded long, non-coding RNAs(lncRNAs) as nothing more than junk. These RNA sequences were only around 200 nucleotides long and did not encode a protein product! However, these bits of “junk” were single-stranded and could form secondary structures. In fact, accumulating evidence suggests these molecules play important roles across the cell. Research shows that lncRNAs can bind to proteins and DNA or RNA in a sequence-specific manner. Furthermore, experiments suggest lncRNAs may regulate gene expression via transcriptional and post-transcriptional pathways. 

Researchers are finding these RNAs play a variety of roles in the cell, including  many commonly occupied by proteins. For instance, lncRNAs can bind directly to proteins, regulating their activity or altering their localization in the cell. They can even facilitate the formation of larger RNA-protein complexes. Further expanding their toolkit, some lncRNAs are processed into smaller transcripts with specific functions, such as microRNAs and Piwi-interacting RNAs.

lncRNAs are classified according to their location with respect to protein-coding genes. Thus, they can be classified as (a) intergenic (transcribed intergenetically from both strands), (b) intronic (transcribed entirely from introns from protein-coding genes), (c) sense (transcribed from the sense strand of protein-coding genes), and (d) antisense (transcribed from the antisense strand of protein-coding genes).

At present, the functions of lncRNAs are not fully understood. However, there is reason to believe that these RNAs are associated with several chronic medical conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, and cancer.

What are lincRNAs?

With more than 8,000 identified to date, lincRNAs are considered the largest subclass of RNAs in the human genome. Despite their inability to encode proteins, studies have shown these RNAs possess an exon-intron-exon structure that resembles that of protein-coding genes. Though found predominantly in the nucleus, evidence suggests a subset of lincRNAs can be found in the cytoplasm where they are linked to diverse cellular processes such as mRNA stability, translational regulation, and microRNA-mediated gene regulation.

Although researchers are only beginning to discover the roles of these molecules, lincRNAs have already been shown to tune gene expression by affecting nuclear architecture and sequestering intracellular molecules. They can further influence gene expression by affecting chromatin topology. Finally, lincRNAs can directly influence the expression of neighboring genes by acting as protein and RNA decoys or encoding functional micropeptides.

Can lincRNAs help humanity?

With 93% of disease-associated genetic variants (SNPs) located in the vicinity of intergenic or gene regulatory regions,  there is a strong chance they are involved in human disease and development – even though the mechanism by which SNPs affect the disease is unknown. In fact, numerous studies indicate lincRNAs are associated with the development of multiple cancers and end-stage renal disease in diabetic patients. Furthermore, lincRNAs can potentially be used as biomarkers for disease detection through non-invasive means. Given their importance in a diverse array of cellular processes, lincRNAs may themselves be  potential therapeutic targets, offering new avenues for the development of targeted treatments.

Numerous technological advancements are underway which will shed further light on the importance of lincRNAs. High-throughput sequencing technologies continue to aid in the identification of new transcripts and in the characterization of their expression profiles. Bioinformatics and machine learning help to identify sequences and predict their functions. Finally, advances in CRISPR-based technologies have allowed researchers to investigate the functional roles of individual lincRNAs and lncRNAs, revealing their functions in various biological contexts.

In conclusion, the growing understanding of lincRNAs and lncRNAs shows their intricate involvement in many cellular processes, including gene regulation, and their importance to human health and disease. These RNAs continue to fascinate researchers across the world, and they hold great potential for the development of diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions in the future. 

mRNA stability -




Handbook: Molecular Biology

Topics: Molecular Biology

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