Transcription by RNA Pol II is a tightly controlled process that is critical to normal cellular metabolism. Understanding how transcriptional regulation is orchestrated has mainly involved identifying and characterizing proteins that function as transcription factors. During the past decade, however, an increasing number of lncRNAs have been identified as transcriptional regulators. This revelation has spurred new discoveries, novel techniques and paradigm shifts, which together are redefining our understanding of transcriptional control and broadening our view of RNA function. Here, the authors summarize recent discoveries concerning the role of lncRNAs as regulators of mammalian mRNA transcription, with a focus on key concepts that are guiding current research in the field.
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