Home and Away: The Role of Non-Coding RNA in Intracellular and Intercellular DNA Damage Response

Genes (Basel). 2021 Sep 23;12(10):1475. doi: 10.3390/genes12101475.


Non-coding RNA (ncRNA) has recently emerged as a vital component of the DNA damage response (DDR), which was previously believed to be solely regulated by proteins. Many species of ncRNA can directly or indirectly influence DDR and enhance DNA repair, particularly in response to double-strand DNA breaks, which may hold therapeutic potential in the context of cancer. These include long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), microRNA, damage-induced lncRNA, DNA damage response small RNA, and DNA:RNA hybrid structures, which can be categorised as cis or trans based on the location of their synthesis relative to DNA damage sites. Mechanisms of RNA-dependent DDR include the recruitment or scaffolding of repair factors at DNA break sites, the regulation of repair factor expression, and the stabilisation of repair intermediates. DDR can also be communicated intercellularly via exosomes, leading to bystander responses in healthy neighbour cells to generate a population-wide response to damage. Many microRNA species have been directly implicated in the propagation of bystander DNA damage, autophagy, and radioresistance, which may prove significant for enhancing cancer treatment via radiotherapy. Here, we review recent developments centred around ncRNA and their contributions to intracellular and intercellular DDR mechanisms.

Keywords: DNA damage; RNA; bystander effect; exosomes; lncRNA; miRNA; repair.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Damage / genetics*
  • DNA Repair / genetics*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • DNA