The Long and Short of It – Long Non-Coding RNAs

from Biocompare by Gina Shaw –

Human and other mammalian genomes pervasively transcribe tens of thousands of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). The latest edition of data produced by the public research consortium GenCode (version #27) catalogs just under 16,000 lncRNAs in the human genome, producing nearly 28,000 transcripts; when other databases are included, more than 40,000 lncRNAs are known.

These mRNA-like transcripts have been found to play a controlling role at nearly all levels of gene regulation, and in biological processes like embryonic development. A growing body of evidence also suggests that aberrantly expressed lncRNAs play important roles in multiple disease states, including cancer. But although these RNAs—distinguished from smaller regulatory RNAs by their length of more than 200 nucleotides—have been known for more than a decade, only a few have been functionally characterized.

“You have to start by detecting the non-coding transcript,” says David Corey, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Campus in Dallas, whose research focuses on lncRNAs as drug targets. “I’m not a big fan of using databases to see if someone else has detected it, because of the possibility for errors. They may have detected an RNA that isn’t there in your cell line, or only there in a small amount—or even worse, miss something.”

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