Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) accomplish a remarkable variety of biological functions. They regulate gene expression at the levels of transcription, RNA processing, and translation. They protect genomes from foreign nucleic acids. They can guide DNA synthesis or genome rearrangement. For ribozymes and riboswitches, the RNA structure itself provides the biological function, but most ncRNAs operate as RNA-protein complexes, including ribosomes, snRNPs, snoRNPs, telomerase, microRNAs, and long ncRNAs. Many, though not all, ncRNAs exploit the power of base pairing to selectively bind and act on other nucleic acids. Here, we describe the pathway of ncRNA research, where every established "rule" seems destined to be overturned.
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