Making sense of the natural antisense transcript puzzle

Trends Plant Sci. 2021 Nov;26(11):1104-1115. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2021.07.004. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


In plants, thousands of genes are associated with antisense transcription, which often produces noncoding RNAs. Although widespread, sense-antisense pairs have been implicated in a limited variety of functions in plants and are often thought to form extensive dsRNA stretches triggering gene silencing. In this opinion, we show that evidence does not support gene silencing as a major role for antisense transcription. In fact, it is more likely that antisense transcripts play diverse functions in gene regulation. We propose a general framework for the initial functional dissection of antisense transcripts, suggesting testable hypotheses relying on an experiment-based decision tree. By moving beyond the gene silencing paradigm, we argue that a broad and diverse role for natural antisense transcription will emerge.

Keywords: RNA–RNA interaction; natural antisense transcript; noncoding RNA; silencing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • RNA, Antisense* / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Untranslated