Over the last decade, tens of thousands of new long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been identified in the human genome. Nevertheless, except for a handful of genes, the genetic characteristics and functions of most of these lncRNAs remain elusive; this is partially due to their relatively low expression, high tissue specificity, and low conservation across species. A major limitation for determining the function of lncRNAs was the lack of methodologies suitable for studying these genes. The recent development of CRISPR/Cas9 technology has opened unprecedented opportunities to uncover the genetic and functional characteristics of the non-coding genome via targeted and high-throughput approaches. Specific CRISPR/Cas9-based approaches were developed to target lncRNA loci. Some of these approaches involve modifying the sequence, but others were developed to study lncRNAs by inducing transcriptional and epigenetic changes. The discovery of other programable Cas proteins broaden our possibilities to target RNA molecules with greater precision and accuracy. These approaches allow for the knock-down and characterization of lncRNAs. Here, we review how various CRISPR-based strategies have been used to characterize lncRNAs with important functions in different biological contexts and how these approaches can be further utilized to improve our understanding of the non-coding genome.
Keywords: CRISPR; CRISPRa; CRISPRi; Cas13; Cas9; enhancer; lncRNA; ncRNA.