Over the past decade there has been a greater understanding of genomic complexity in eukaryotes ushered in by the immense technological advances in high-throughput sequencing of DNA and its corresponding RNA transcripts. This has resulted in the realization that beyond protein-coding genes, there are a large number of transcripts that do not encode for proteins and, therefore, may perform their function through RNA sequences and/or through secondary and tertiary structural determinants. This review is focused on the latest findings on a class of noncoding RNAs that are relatively large (>200 nucleotides), display nuclear localization, and use different strategies to regulate transcription. These are exciting times for discovering the biological scope and the mechanism of action for these RNA molecules, which have roles in dosage compensation, imprinting, enhancer function, and transcriptional regulation, with a great impact on development and disease.
Keywords: RNA polymerase II; chromatin; chromatin-modifying complexes; enhancers; imprinting; transcriptional silencing.