Purpose of review
Mounting evidence suggests that long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are essential regulators of gene expression. Although few lncRNAs have been the subject of detailed molecular and functional characterization, it is believed that lncRNAs play an important role in tissue homeostasis and development. In fact, gene expression profiling studies reveal lncRNAs are developmentally regulated in a tissue-type and cell-type specific manner. Such findings have brought significant attention to their potential contribution to disease cause. The current review summarizes recent studies of lncRNAs in the heart.
lncRNA discovery has largely been driven by the implementation of next generation sequencing technologies. To date, such technologies have contributed to the identification of tens of thousands of distinct lncRNAs in humans -- accounting for a large majority of all RNA sequences transcribed across the human genome. Although the functions of these lncRNAs remain largely unknown, gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies (in vivo and in vitro) have uncovered a number of mechanisms by which lncRNAs regulate gene expression and protein function. Such mechanisms have been stratified according to three major functional categories: RNA sponges (RNA-mediated sequestration of free miRNAs; e.g. H19, MEG3, and MALAT1); transcription-modulating lncRNAs (RNA influences regulatory factor recruitment by binding to histone modifiers or transcription factors; e.g. CAIF, MANTIS, and NEAT1); and translation-modulating lncRNAs (RNA modifies protein function via directly interacting with a protein itself or binding partners; e.g. Airn, CCRR, and ZFAS1).
Recent studies strongly suggest that lncRNAs function via binding to macromolecules (e.g. genomic DNA, miRNAs, or proteins). Thus, lncRNAs constitute an additional mode by which cells regulate gene expression.