Human long noncoding RNAs are substantially less folded than messenger RNAs

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) do not code for proteins but function as RNAs. Because the functions of an RNA rely on either its sequence or secondary structure, lncRNAs should be folded at least as strongly as messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which serve as messengers for translation and are generally thought to lack secondary structure-dependent RNA-level functions. Contrary to this prediction, analysis of genome-wide experimental data of human RNA folding reveals that lncRNAs are substantially less folded than mRNAs even after the control of expression level and GC%, although both lncRNAs and mRNAs are more strongly folded than expected by chance. In contrast to mRNAs, lncRNAs show neither the positive correlation between folding strength and expression level nor the negative correlation between folding strength and evolutionary rate. These and other results support that, while RNA folding undoubtedly plays a role in RNA biology, it is also important in translation and/or protein biology.

  • Yang J, Zhang J. (2014) Human long noncoding RNAs are substantially less folded than messenger RNAs. Mol Biol Evol [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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