Translation of noncoding RNAs: Focus on lncRNAs, pri-miRNAs, and circRNAs

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Mammalian genome is pervasively transcribed, producing large number of noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs), including long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), primary miRNAs (pri-miRNA), and circular RNAs (circRNAs). The translation of these ncRNAs has long been overlooked. Increasing studies, however, based on ribosome profiling in various organisms provide important clues to unanticipated translation potential of lncRNAs. Moreover, a few functional peptides encoded by lncRNAs and pri-miRNAs underline the significance of their translation. Recently, several novel researches also evidence the translation of endogenous circRNAs. Given the functional significance exemplified by peptides translated by some ncRNAs and their pervasive translation, it is not too far-fetched to image that abnormal translation of ncRNAs may contribute to human diseases. Through challenging, deciphering ncRNA translation is required for comprehensive understanding of biology and medicine. In this review, we firstly present evidence concerning translation potential of lncRNAs and go on to introduce a few functional short peptides encoded by lncRNAs. Then, salient observations showing translation of pri-miRNAs and circRNAs are described in detail. We end by discussing the impact of ncRNA translation beyond producing peptides and referring briefly to the potential role of abnormal ncRNA translation in human diseases.

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