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      The Genetic Signatures of Noncoding RNAs

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      PLoS Genetics
      Public Library of Science

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          Abstract

          The majority of the genome in animals and plants is transcribed in a developmentally regulated manner to produce large numbers of non–protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), whose incidence increases with developmental complexity. There is growing evidence that these transcripts are functional, particularly in the regulation of epigenetic processes, leading to the suggestion that they compose a hitherto hidden layer of genomic programming in humans and other complex organisms. However, to date, very few have been identified in genetic screens. Here I show that this is explicable by an historic emphasis, both phenotypically and technically, on mutations in protein-coding sequences, and by presumptions about the nature of regulatory mutations. Most variations in regulatory sequences produce relatively subtle phenotypic changes, in contrast to mutations in protein-coding sequences that frequently cause catastrophic component failure. Until recently, most mapping projects have focused on protein-coding sequences, and the limited number of identified regulatory mutations have been interpreted as affecting conventional cis-acting promoter and enhancer elements, although these regions are often themselves transcribed. Moreover, ncRNA-directed regulatory circuits underpin most, if not all, complex genetic phenomena in eukaryotes, including RNA interference-related processes such as transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene silencing, position effect variegation, hybrid dysgenesis, chromosome dosage compensation, parental imprinting and allelic exclusion, paramutation, and possibly transvection and transinduction. The next frontier is the identification and functional characterization of the myriad sequence variations that influence quantitative traits, disease susceptibility, and other complex characteristics, which are being shown by genome-wide association studies to lie mostly in noncoding, presumably regulatory, regions. There is every possibility that many of these variations will alter the interactions between regulatory RNAs and their targets, a prospect that should be borne in mind in future functional analyses.

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          Most cited references173

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          The transcriptional landscape of the mammalian genome.

          This study describes comprehensive polling of transcription start and termination sites and analysis of previously unidentified full-length complementary DNAs derived from the mouse genome. We identify the 5' and 3' boundaries of 181,047 transcripts with extensive variation in transcripts arising from alternative promoter usage, splicing, and polyadenylation. There are 16,247 new mouse protein-coding transcripts, including 5154 encoding previously unidentified proteins. Genomic mapping of the transcriptome reveals transcriptional forests, with overlapping transcription on both strands, separated by deserts in which few transcripts are observed. The data provide a comprehensive platform for the comparative analysis of mammalian transcriptional regulation in differentiation and development.
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            Posttranscriptional regulation of the heterochronic gene lin-14 by lin-4 mediates temporal pattern formation in C. elegans.

            During C. elegans development, the temporal pattern of many cell lineages is specified by graded activity of the heterochronic gene Lin-14. Here we demonstrate that a temporal gradient in Lin-14 protein is generated posttranscriptionally by multiple elements in the lin-14 3'UTR that are regulated by the heterochronic gene Lin-4. The lin-14 3'UTR is both necessary and sufficient to confer lin-4-mediated posttranscriptional temporal regulation. The function of the lin-14 3'UTR is conserved between C. elegans and C. briggsae. Among the conserved sequences are seven elements that are each complementary to the lin-4 RNAs. A reporter gene bearing three of these elements shows partial temporal gradient activity. These data suggest a molecular mechanism for Lin-14p temporal gradient formation: the lin-4 RNAs base pair to sites in the lin-14 3'UTR to form multiple RNA duplexes that down-regulate lin-14 translation.
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              Identification of mammalian microRNA host genes and transcription units.

              To derive a global perspective on the transcription of microRNAs (miRNAs) in mammals, we annotated the genomic position and context of this class of noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) in the human and mouse genomes. Of the 232 known mammalian miRNAs, we found that 161 overlap with 123 defined transcription units (TUs). We identified miRNAs within introns of 90 protein-coding genes with a broad spectrum of molecular functions, and in both introns and exons of 66 mRNA-like noncoding RNAs (mlncRNAs). In addition, novel families of miRNAs based on host gene identity were identified. The transcription patterns of all miRNA host genes were curated from a variety of sources illustrating spatial, temporal, and physiological regulation of miRNA expression. These findings strongly suggest that miRNAs are transcribed in parallel with their host transcripts, and that the two different transcription classes of miRNAs ('exonic' and 'intronic') identified here may require slightly different mechanisms of biogenesis.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS Genet
                plos
                plosgen
                PLoS Genetics
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1553-7390
                1553-7404
                April 2009
                April 2009
                24 April 2009
                : 5
                : 4
                : e1000459
                Affiliations
                [1]Australian Research Council Special Research Centre for Functional and Applied Genomics, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
                Massachusetts General Hospital, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, United States of America
                Author notes
                Article
                08-PLGE-RV-1627R2
                10.1371/journal.pgen.1000459
                2667263
                19390609
                329bdc32-a7cb-4ad8-8952-0f2046d6d9a9
                John S. Mattick. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                History
                Page count
                Pages: 12
                Categories
                Review
                Genetics and Genomics
                Genetics and Genomics/Animal Genetics
                Genetics and Genomics/Cancer Genetics
                Genetics and Genomics/Complex Traits
                Genetics and Genomics/Epigenetics
                Genetics and Genomics/Functional Genomics
                Genetics and Genomics/Gene Discovery
                Genetics and Genomics/Gene Function
                Genetics and Genomics/Genomics
                Genetics and Genomics/Medical Genetics

                Genetics
                Genetics

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