Circular RNAs in Brain and Other Tissues: A Functional Enigma

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Sep;39(9):597-604. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.06.006. Epub 2016 Jul 18.


Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are RNAs with a covalently closed loop structure that have recently regained the attention of biologists. Using deep RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) coupled with novel bioinformatic approaches, genome-wide studies have detected a large number of circRNAs, many of which are abundant, stable, and well conserved during evolution. With few exceptions, the function of most circRNAs remains elusive. Several recent studies have shown that circRNAs are more enriched in neuronal tissues and are often derived from genes specific for neuronal and synaptic function. Moreover, circRNA expression is regulated during neuronal development and by synaptic plasticity, suggesting specific neuronal functions. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the detection, biogenesis, and potential functions of circRNAs, with a particular focus on brain tissues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Circular
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods


  • RNA, Circular
  • RNA