Most proteins are derived from the translation of coding sequence (CDS) in messenger RNAs (mRNAs). However, accumulating evidence has revealed an unexpected abundance of translation in putative non-coding genomes, especially 5' untranslated region (5' UTR) of mRNAs or non-coding RNA species (ncRNA) such as long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and circular RNAs (circRNAs). Notably, many of these UTR- or ncRNA-encoded micropeptides/proteins play important roles in human malignancies. In this review, we describe recent advances in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the translation of non-coding regions or ncRNAs and the methods to discover the hidden coding information. Furthermore, we summarize the biological functions of UTR- or ncRNA-encoded micropeptides/proteins in cancers and discuss their potential as clinical biomarkers for cancer diagnosis and as therapeutic targets for cancer treatment.
Keywords: 5′ UTR; cancer; micropeptide; ncRNA; noncanonical translation.
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