Unlike linear RNAs terminated with 5' caps and 3' tails, circular RNAs are characterized by covalently closed loop structures with neither 5' to 3' polarity nor polyadenylated tail. This intrinsic characteristic has led to the general under-estimation of the existence of circular RNAs in previous polyadenylated transcriptome analyses. With the advent of specific biochemical and computational approaches, a large number of circular RNAs from back-spliced exons (circRNAs) have been identified in various cell lines and across different species. Recent studies have uncovered that back-splicing requires canonical spliceosomal machinery and can be facilitated by both complementary sequences and specific protein factors. In this review, we highlight our current understanding of the regulation of circRNA biogenesis, including both the competition between splicing and back-splicing and the previously under-appreciated alternative circularization.
Keywords: alternative circularization; back-splicing; circular RNA; circularization; complementary sequence; splicing.