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Emerging mechanisms of long noncoding RNA function during normal and malignant hematopoiesis

Juan R. Alvarez-Dominguez and Harvey F. Lodish

Abstract

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are increasingly recognized as vital components of gene programs controlling cell differentiation and function. Central to their functions is an ability to act as scaffolds or as decoys that recruit or sequester effector proteins from their DNA, RNA, or protein targets. lncRNA-modulated effectors include regulators of transcription, chromatin organization, RNA processing, and translation, such that lncRNAs can influence gene expression at multiple levels. Here we review the current understanding of how lncRNAs help coordinate gene expression to modulate cell fate in the hematopoietic system. We focus on a growing number of mechanistic studies to synthesize emerging principles of lncRNA function, emphasizing how they facilitate diversification of gene programming during development. We also survey how disrupted lncRNA function can contribute to malignant transformation, highlighting opportunities for therapeutic intervention in specific myeloid and lymphoid cancers. Finally, we discuss challenges and prospects for further elucidation of lncRNA mechanisms.

  • Submitted June 2, 2017.
  • Accepted September 15, 2017.