Since decades it has been known that non-protein-coding RNAs have important cellular functions. Deep sequencing recently facilitated the discovery of thousands of novel transcripts, now classified as long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), in many vertebrate and invertebrate species. LncRNAs are involved in a wide range of cellular mechanisms, from almost all aspects of gene expression to protein translation and stability. Recent findings implicate lncRNAs as key players of cellular differentiation, cell lineage choice, organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. Moreover, lncRNAs are involved in pathological conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, and therefore provide novel biomarkers and pharmaceutical targets. Here we discuss examples illustrating the versatility of lncRNAs in gene control, development and differentiation, as well as in human disease.
Keywords: Cancer; Cardiovascular disease; Chromatin; Differentiation; Epigenetics; Gene regulation; Genome organization; LncRNA.