Noncoding RNAs: couplers of analog and digital information in nervous system function?

Trends Neurosci. 2007 Dec;30(12):612-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2007.10.002. Epub 2007 Nov 8.


The mammalian nervous system expresses numerous noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). We propose that ncRNAs are capable of coupling the digital information universe of nucleic acids with the analog universe of cellular protein interactions. ncRNAs could contribute to the success of the organism's information processing in several ways. First, ncRNAs would allow for efficient coupling of energy with information, wherein less energy is required to represent and process more information, condensed in analog and digital form, into smaller spatial and temporal domains, ideal for the environments found in neural tissues. Second, ncRNAs would permit the rapid acquisition of information from the environment, along with the rapid flexible processing and elimination of that information when it is no longer necessary. Third, ncRNAs would facilitate accelerated evolution of an organism's information content and functional computational systems. This emerging panorama might open new dimensions of information processing in the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism*
  • RNA / classification
  • RNA / physiology
  • RNA, Untranslated / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Species Specificity


  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA