Alternative polyadenylation in the nervous system: to what lengths will 3' UTR extensions take us?

Bioessays. 2014 Aug;36(8):766-77. doi: 10.1002/bies.201300174. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Alternative cleavage and polyadenylation (APA) can diversify coding and non-coding regions, but has particular impact on increasing 3' UTR diversity. Through the gain or loss of regulatory elements such as RNA binding protein and microRNA sites, APA can influence transcript stability, localization, and translational efficiency. Strikingly, the central nervous systems of invertebrate and vertebrate species express a broad range of transcript isoforms bearing extended 3' UTRs. The molecular mechanism that permits proximal 3' end bypass in neurons is mysterious, and only beginning to be elucidated. This landscape of neural 3' UTR extensions, many reaching unprecedented lengths, may help service the unique post-transcriptional regulatory needs of neurons. A combination of approaches, including transcriptome-wide profiling, genetic screening to identify APA factors, biochemical dissection of alternative 3' end formation, and manipulation of individual neural APA targets, will be necessary to gain fuller perspectives on the mechanism and biology of neural-specific 3' UTR lengthening.

Keywords: 3′ UTR; RNA-binding protein; alternative polyadenylation; miRNA; nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions*
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Polyadenylation*
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA Transport


  • 3' Untranslated Regions