From "Cellular" RNA to "Smart" RNA: Multiple Roles of RNA in Genome Stability and Beyond

Chem Rev. 2018 Apr 25;118(8):4365-4403. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.7b00487. Epub 2018 Mar 30.


Coding for proteins has been considered the main function of RNA since the "central dogma" of biology was proposed. The discovery of noncoding transcripts shed light on additional roles of RNA, ranging from the support of polypeptide synthesis, to the assembly of subnuclear structures, to gene expression modulation. Cellular RNA has therefore been recognized as a central player in often unanticipated biological processes, including genomic stability. This ever-expanding list of functions inspired us to think of RNA as a "smart" phone, which has replaced the older obsolete "cellular" phone. In this review, we summarize the last two decades of advances in research on the interface between RNA biology and genome stability. We start with an account of the emergence of noncoding RNA, and then we discuss the involvement of RNA in DNA damage signaling and repair, telomere maintenance, and genomic rearrangements. We continue with the depiction of single-molecule RNA detection techniques, and we conclude by illustrating the possibilities of RNA modulation in hopes of creating or improving new therapies. The widespread biological functions of RNA have made this molecule a reoccurring theme in basic and translational research, warranting it the transcendence from classically studied "cellular" RNA to "smart" RNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Damage
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Humans
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA-Binding Proteins