The human brain is one of the most complex biological systems, and the cognitive abilities have greatly expanded compared to invertebrates without much expansion in the number of protein coding genes. This suggests that gene regulation plays a very important role in the development and function of nervous system, by acting at multiple levels such as transcription and translation. In this article the authors discuss the regulatory roles of three classes of non-protein coding RNAs (ncRNAs)-microRNAs (miRNAs), piwi-interacting RNA (piRNAs) and long-non-coding RNA (lncRNA), in the process of neurogenesis and nervous function including control of synaptic plasticity and potential roles in neurodegenerative diseases.
miRNAs are involved in diverse processes including neurogenesis where they channelize the cellular physiology toward neuronal differentiation. miRNAs can also indirectly influence neurogenesis by regulating the proliferation and self renewal of neural stem cells and are dysregulated in several neurodegenerative diseases. miRNAs are also known to regulate synaptic plasticity and are usually found to be co-expressed with their targets. The dynamics of gene regulation is thus dependent on the local architecture of the gene regulatory network (GRN) around the miRNA and its targets. piRNAs had been classically known to regulate transposons in the germ cells. However, piRNAs have been, recently, found to be expressed in the brain and possibly function by imparting epigenetic changes by DNA methylation. piRNAs are known to be maternally inherited and we assume that they may play a role in early development. The authors also explore the possible function of piRNAs in regulating the expansion of transposons in the brain. Brain is known to express several lncRNA but functional roles in brain development are attributed to a few lncRNA while functions of most of the them remain unknown. They review the roles of some known lncRNA and explore the other possible functions of lncRNAs including their interaction with miRNAs.
- Iyengar BR, Choudhary A, Sarangdhar MA, Venkatesh KV, Gadgil CJ, Pillai B. (2014) Non-coding RNA interact to regulate neuronal development and function. Front Cell Neurosci 8:47. [article]