Over the past ten years non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have emerged as pivotal players in fundamental physiological and cellular processes and have been increasingly implicated in cancer, immune disorders, and cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of ncRNA molecules that function as negative regulators of post-transcriptional gene expression. miRNAs are predicted to regulate 60% of all human protein-coding genes and as such, play key roles in cellular and developmental processes, human health, and disease. Relative to counterparts that lack bindings sites for miRNAs, genes encoding proteins that are post-transcriptionally regulated by miRNAs are twice as likely to be sensitive to environmental chemical exposure. Not surprisingly, miRNAs have been recognized as targets or effectors of nervous system, developmental, hepatic, and carcinogenic toxicants, and have been identified as putative regulators of phase I xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes. In this review, we give an overview of the types of ncRNAs and highlight their roles in neurodevelopment, neurological disease, activity-dependent signaling, and drug metabolism. We then delve into specific examples that illustrate their importance as mediators, effectors, or adaptive agents of neurotoxicants or neuroactive pharmaceutical compounds. Finally, we identify a number of outstanding questions regarding ncRNAs and neurotoxicity.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.