NoncodingRNAs: from bench to bedside
- GA Calin1
© Calin. 2011
Published: 16 November 2011
The newly discovered differential expression in numerous tissues, key cellular processes and multiple diseases for several families of long and short noncodingRNAs (ncRNAs, RNAs that do not codify for proteins but for RNAs with regulatory functions), including the already famous class of microRNAs (miRNAs), strongly suggest that the scientific and medical communities have significantly underestimated the spectrum of ncRNAs whose altered expression has significant consequences in diseases. miRNA and other short or long ncRNA alterations are involved in the initiation, progression and metastases of human breast cancer. The main molecular alterations are represented by variations in gene expression, usually mild and with consequences for a vast number of target protein coding genes. The causes of the widespread differential expression of ncRNAs in malignant compared with normal cells can be explained by the location of these genes in cancer-associated genomic regions, by epigenetic mechanisms and by alterations in the processing machinery. miRNA and other short or long ncRNA expression profiling of human breast tumors has identified signatures associated with diagnosis, staging, progression, prognosis and response to treatment. In addition, profiling has been exploited to identify ncRNAs that may represent downstream targets of activated oncogenic pathways or that are targeting protein coding genes involved in cancer. Recent studies proved that miRNAs and noncoding ultraconserved genes are main candidates for the elusive class of cancer predisposing genes and that other types of ncRNAs participate in the genetic puzzle giving rise to the malignant phenotype. Last, but not least, the shown expression correlations of these new ncRNAs with cancer metastatic potential and overall survival rates suggest that at least some member of these novel classes of molecules could potentially find use as biomarkers or novel therapeutics in cancers and other diseases.