Global Positioning System: Understanding Long Noncoding RNAs through Subcellular Localization

Mol Cell. 2019 Mar 7;73(5):869-883. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.02.008.


The localization of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) within the cell is the primary determinant of their molecular functions. LncRNAs are often thought of as chromatin-restricted regulators of gene transcription and chromatin structure. However, a rich population of cytoplasmic lncRNAs has come to light, with diverse roles including translational regulation, signaling, and respiration. RNA maps of increasing resolution and scope are revealing a subcellular world of highly specific localization patterns and hint at sequence-based address codes specifying lncRNA fates. We propose a new framework for analyzing sequencing-based data, which suggests that numbers of cytoplasmic lncRNA molecules rival those in the nucleus. New techniques promise to create high-resolution, transcriptome-wide maps associated with all organelles of the mammalian cell. Given its intimate link to molecular roles, subcellular localization provides a means of unlocking the mystery of lncRNA functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Cytoplasm / genetics
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Humans
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • RNA, Long Noncoding