The vast majority of the mammalian genome is transcribed, generating a wealth of transcripts that do not have protein-coding potential. These non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have emerged as major mediators of compartmentalized gene expression with many important regulatory functions, and are therefore at the focus of biological research in many cellular systems. The expression of ncRNAs is particularly multifaceted in neurons, as they seem to be expressed in a highly cell-type and activity-dependent manner. Specific subclasses of ncRNAs, especially microRNAs (miRNAs), were implicated in the local regulation of mRNA translation in neuronal dendrites, a process of compartmentalized gene expression that is engaged during synaptic plasticity. Recent discoveries point towards a widespread involvement of ncRNA families in local translation, including less abundant small RNAs (PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), endogenous small interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs)) and long ncRNAs (circular RNAs (circRNAs), long intergenic ncRNAs (lincRNAs)). The mechanisms underlying the dendritic transport and the regulatory function of ncRNAs in response to neuronal activity are being elucidated. The emerging picture is an intricate crosstalk between different ncRNA families, mRNAs and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) that synergistically fine-tune the local dendritic proteome in an activity-dependent manner.
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