Most of the eukaryotic genome is pervasively transcribed, yielding hundreds to thousands of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) and circular RNAs (circRNAs), some of which are well conserved during evolution. Functions have been described for a few lncRNAs and circRNAs but remain elusive for most. Both classes of RNAs play regulatory roles in translation by interacting with messenger RNAs (mRNAs), microRNAs (miRNAs), or mRNA-binding proteins (RBPs), thereby modulating translation in trans Moreover, although initially defined as noncoding, a number of lncRNAs and circRNAs have recently been reported to contain functional open reading frames (ORFs). Here, we review current understanding of the roles played by lncRNAs and circRNAs in protein synthesis and discuss challenges and open questions in the field.
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