RNA-mediated epigenetic regulation of gene expression

Nat Rev Genet. 2015 Feb;16(2):71-84. doi: 10.1038/nrg3863. Epub 2015 Jan 2.


Diverse classes of RNA, ranging from small to long non-coding RNAs, have emerged as key regulators of gene expression, genome stability and defence against foreign genetic elements. Small RNAs modify chromatin structure and silence transcription by guiding Argonaute-containing complexes to complementary nascent RNA scaffolds and then mediating the recruitment of histone and DNA methyltransferases. In addition, recent advances suggest that chromatin-associated long non-coding RNA scaffolds also recruit chromatin-modifying complexes independently of small RNAs. These co-transcriptional silencing mechanisms form powerful RNA surveillance systems that detect and silence inappropriate transcription events, and provide a memory of these events via self-reinforcing epigenetic loops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / physiology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Heterochromatin / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Yeasts


  • Heterochromatin
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA