A major shift in our understanding of genome regulation has emerged recently. It is now apparent that the majority of cellular transcripts do not code for proteins, and many of them are long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). Increasingly, studies suggest that lncRNAs regulate gene expression through diverse mechanisms. Researchers from the University of Navarra review emerging mechanistic views of lncRNAs in gene regulation in the cell nucleus. They discuss the functional interactions that lncRNAs establish with other molecules as well as the relationship between lncRNA transcription and function. While some of these mechanisms are specific to lncRNAs, others might be shared with other types of genes.
The multiple dimensions of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) function
lncRNAs can regulate gene expression by different mechanisms, some of which are illustrated here. These modes of action include lncRNA transcription-dependent activation or repression of neighbour genes (1), lncRNA-mediated inter-chromosomal interactions (2), formation of nuclear structures (i.e. paraspeckles) (3) or R-loops (4), lncRNAs as guide (5) or decoy (6) of transcription factors or as a scaffold for chromatin modifying complexes (7), lncRNAs acting as sponges of miRNAs (8), regulating post-transcriptional mRNA decay (9), regulating the cellular localization of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) (10) or DNA-binding proteins (DBPs)