Perspectives on the mechanism of transcriptional regulation by long non-coding RNAs

Epigenetics. 2014 Jan;9(1):13-20. doi: 10.4161/epi.26700. Epub 2013 Oct 22.


Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are increasingly being recognized as epigenetic regulators of gene transcription. The diversity and complexity of lncRNA genes means that they exert their regulatory effects by a variety of mechanisms. Although there is still much to be learned about the mechanism of lncRNA function, general principles are starting to emerge. In particular, the application of high throughput (deep) sequencing methodologies has greatly advanced our understanding of lncRNA gene function. lncRNAs function as adaptors that link specific chromatin loci with chromatin-remodeling complexes and transcription factors. lncRNAs can act in cis or trans to guide epigenetic-modifier complexes to distinct genomic sites, or act as scaffolds which recruit multiple proteins simultaneously, thereby coordinating their activities. In this review we discuss the genomic organization of lncRNAs, the importance of RNA secondary structure to lncRNA functionality, the multitude of ways in which they interact with the genome, and what evolutionary conservation tells us about their function.

Keywords: RNA; RNA scaffolds; RNA structure; RNAi; TGA; TGS; chromatin; epigenetics; lncRNA; ncRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / chemistry
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics*
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Transcription Factors