RNA in pieces

Trends Genet. 2011 Oct;27(10):422-32. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Eukaryotic genomes accommodate numerous types of information within diverse DNA and RNA sequence elements. At many loci, these elements overlap and the same sequence is read multiple times during the production, processing, localization, function and turnover of a single transcript. Moreover, two or more transcripts from the same locus might use a common sequence in different ways, to perform distinct biological roles. Recent results show that many transcripts also undergo post-transcriptional cleavage to release specific fragments, which can then function independently. This phenomenon appears remarkably widespread, with even well-documented transcript classes such as messenger RNAs yielding fragments. RNA fragmentation significantly expands the already extraordinary spectrum of transcripts present within eukaryotic cells, and also calls into question how the 'gene' should be defined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Genetic Pleiotropy
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • RNA Folding
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar / genetics
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar / metabolism*
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA, Small Nucleolar
  • DNA
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Endoribonucleases