Long non-coding RNAs: definitions, functions, challenges and recommendations

John S Mattick, Paulo P Amaral, Piero Carninci, Susan Carpenter, Howard Y Chang, Ling-Ling Chen, Runsheng Chen, Caroline Dean, Marcel E Dinger, Katherine A Fitzgerald, Thomas R Gingeras, Mitchell Guttman, Tetsuro Hirose, Maite Huarte, Rory Johnson, Chandrasekhar Kanduri, Philipp Kapranov, Jeanne B Lawrence, Jeannie T Lee, Joshua T MendellTimothy R Mercer, Kathryn J Moore, Shinichi Nakagawa, John L Rinn, David L Spector, Igor Ulitsky, Yue Wan, Jeremy E Wilusz, Mian Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genes specifying long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) occupy a large fraction of the genomes of complex organisms. The term 'lncRNAs' encompasses RNA polymerase I (Pol I), Pol II and Pol III transcribed RNAs, and RNAs from processed introns. The various functions of lncRNAs and their many isoforms and interleaved relationships with other genes make lncRNA classification and annotation difficult. Most lncRNAs evolve more rapidly than protein-coding sequences, are cell type specific and regulate many aspects of cell differentiation and development and other physiological processes. Many lncRNAs associate with chromatin-modifying complexes, are transcribed from enhancers and nucleate phase separation of nuclear condensates and domains, indicating an intimate link between lncRNA expression and the spatial control of gene expression during development. lncRNAs also have important roles in the cytoplasm and beyond, including in the regulation of translation, metabolism and signalling. lncRNAs often have a modular structure and are rich in repeats, which are increasingly being shown to be relevant to their function. In this Consensus Statement, we address the definition and nomenclature of lncRNAs and their conservation, expression, phenotypic visibility, structure and functions. We also discuss research challenges and provide recommendations to advance the understanding of the roles of lncRNAs in development, cell biology and disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-447
Number of pages18
JournalNature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology
Issue number6
Early online date3 Jan 2023
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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