Transcripts that lack any protein-coding potential represent at least half of the identified elements transcriptome. We review the evidence for the existence of such transcripts in the mammalian transcriptome, and argue that there may be many more noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) still to be discovered. Relatively few ncRNA "genes" have been ascribed a function based upon mutation analysis. The review discusses possible roles of ncRNAs as cis-acting and trans-acting elements in epigenetic transcriptional control, including monoallelic gene silencing and imprinting. We also consider the evidence that the production of ncRNAs is a common feature of transcriptional enhancers.
- genome, transcriptome, epigenetic, ncRNA, regulatory networks, junk DNA, mRNA, transcriptional noise, microRNA, antisense