Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 359-373

First online:

Functions of Noncoding RNAs in Neural Development and Neurological Diseases

  • Shan BianAffiliated withDepartment of Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • , Tao SunAffiliated withDepartment of Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University Email author 

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The development of the central nervous system (CNS) relies on precisely orchestrated gene expression regulation. Dysregulation of both genetic and environmental factors can affect proper CNS development and results in neurological diseases. Recent studies have shown that similar to protein coding genes, noncoding RNA molecules have a significant impact on normal CNS development and on causes and progression of human neurological disorders. In this review, we have highlighted discoveries of functions of noncoding RNAs, in particular microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs, in neural development and neurological diseases. Emerging evidence has shown that microRNAs play an essential role in many aspects of neural development, such as proliferation of neural stem cells and progenitors, neuronal differentiation, maturation, and synaptogenesis. Misregulation of microRNAs is associated with some mental disorders and neurodegeneration diseases. In addition, long noncoding RNAs are found to play a role in neural development by regulating the expression of protein coding genes. Therefore, examining noncoding RNA-mediated gene regulations has revealed novel mechanisms of neural development and provided new insights into the etiology of human neurological diseases.


Neural development Mental disorders Neurodegeneration diseases Noncoding RNAs MicroRNAs (miRNAs) Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) Neural stem cells