A novel RNA transcript with antiapoptotic function is silenced in fragile X syndrome

PLoS One. 2008 Jan 23;3(1):e1486. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001486.


Several genome-wide transcriptomics efforts have shown that a large percentage of the mammalian genome is transcribed into RNAs, however, only a small percentage (1-2%) of these RNAs is translated into proteins. Currently there is an intense interest in characterizing the function of the different classes of noncoding RNAs and their relevance to human disease. Using genomic approaches we discovered FMR4, a primate-specific noncoding RNA transcript (2.4 kb) that resides upstream and likely shares a bidirectional promoter with FMR1. FMR4 is a product of RNA polymerase II and has a similar half-life to FMR1. The CGG expansion in the 5' UTR of FMR1 appears to affect transcription in both directions as we found FMR4, similar to FMR1, to be silenced in fragile X patients and up-regulated in premutation carriers. Knockdown of FMR4 by several siRNAs did not affect FMR1 expression, nor vice versa, suggesting that FMR4 is not a direct regulatory transcript for FMR1. However, FMR4 markedly affected human cell proliferation in vitro; siRNAs knockdown of FMR4 resulted in alterations in the cell cycle and increased apoptosis, while the overexpression of FMR4 caused an increase in cell proliferation. Collectively, our results demonstrate an antiapoptotic function of FMR4 and provide evidence that a well-studied genomic locus can show unexpected functional complexity. It cannot be excluded that altered FMR4 expression might contribute to aspects of the clinical presentation of fragile X syndrome and/or related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA Primers
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Messenger
  • long non-coding RNA FMR4, human
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • RNA Polymerase II