Regulation of eukaryotic gene expression by the untranslated gene regions and other non-coding elements

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Nov;69(21):3613-34. doi: 10.1007/s00018-012-0990-9. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


There is now compelling evidence that the complexity of higher organisms correlates with the relative amount of non-coding RNA rather than the number of protein-coding genes. Previously dismissed as "junk DNA", it is the non-coding regions of the genome that are responsible for regulation, facilitating complex temporal and spatial gene expression through the combinatorial effect of numerous mechanisms and interactions working together to fine-tune gene expression. The major regions involved in regulation of a particular gene are the 5' and 3' untranslated regions and introns. In addition, pervasive transcription of complex genomes produces a variety of non-coding transcripts that interact with these regions and contribute to regulation. This review discusses recent insights into the regulatory roles of the untranslated gene regions and non-coding RNAs in the control of complex gene expression, as well as the implications of this in terms of organism complexity and evolution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism*
  • Regulatory Elements, Transcriptional / genetics
  • Untranslated Regions / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Untranslated Regions