, Volume 58, Issue 7, pp 960-977

Regulatory RNAs

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Abstract.

In addition to mRNA, rRNA and tRNA, which play central roles within cells, there are a number of regulatory, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Of varying lengths, ncRNAs have no long open reading frame. While not encoding proteins, they may act as riboregulators, and their main function is posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression. Many ncRNAs have been identified and characterized both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and are involved in the specific recognition of cellular nucleic acid targets through complementary base pairing, controlling cell growth and differentiation. Some are associated with the abnormalities in imprinted inheritance that occur in several well-known developmental and neurobehavioral disorders. Other ncRNAs accomplish regulation by modulating the activity of proteins. Several rRNAs are able to sustain enzymatic reactions implicated in the translation process including synthesis of peptide bonds within the ribosome. The different roles played by widely distributed RNAs acting in diverse ways, suggest the flexibility and versality of these molecules in regulatory processes. This review summarizes the available biochemical and structural data on known regulatory RNAs.

Received 20 November 2000; received after revision 16 January 2001; accepted 14 February 2001