The long non-coding RNA Fendrr links epigenetic control mechanisms to gene regulatory networks in mammalian embryogenesis

RNA Biol. 2013 Oct;10(10):1579-85. doi: 10.4161/rna.26165. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


Epigenetic control mechanisms determine active and silenced regions of the genome. It is known that the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) and the Trithorax group/Mixed lineage leukemia (TrxG/Mll) complex are able to set repressive and active histone marks, respectively. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) can interact with either of these complexes and guide them to regulatory elements, thereby modifying the expression levels of target genes. The lncRNA Fendrr is transiently expressed in lateral mesoderm of mid-gestational mouse embryos and was shown to interact with both PRC2 and TrxG/Mll complexes in vivo. Gene targeting revealed that loss of Fendrr results in impaired differentiation of tissues derived from lateral mesoderm, the heart and the body wall, ultimately leading to embryonic death. Molecular data suggests that Fendrr acts via dsDNA/RNA triplex formation at target regulatory elements, and directly increases PRC2 occupancy at these sites. This, in turn, modifies the ratio of repressive to active marks, adjusting the expression levels of Fendrr target genes in lateral mesoderm. We propose that Fendrr also mediates long-term epigenetic marks to define expression levels of its target genes within the descendants of lateral mesoderm cells. Here we discuss approaches for lncRNA gene knockouts in the mouse, and suggest a model how Fendrr and possibly other lncRNAs act during embryogenesis.

Keywords: Fendrr; Polycomb Repressive Complex 2; embryogenesis; epigenetic control; histone modification; lncRNA; long non-coding RNA; mouse.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome


  • RNA, Long Noncoding