Until recently, retention of introns in mature mRNAs has been regarded as a consequence of mis-splicing. Intron-retaining transcripts are thought to be non-functional because they are readily degraded by nonsense-mediated decay. However, recent advances in next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled the detection of numerous transcripts that retain introns. As we review herein, intron-retaining mRNAs play an essential conserved role in normal physiology and an emergent role in diverse diseases. Intron retention should no longer be overlooked as a key mechanism that independently reduces gene expression in normal biology. Exploring its contribution to the development and/or maintenance of diseases is of increasing importance.
Keywords: alternative splicing; cancer; gene expression; intron retention; miRNAs; non-coding RNAs; nonsense-mediated decay.
© 2015 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.