Epitranscriptional regulation of cardiovascular development and disease

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Development, homeostasis and responses to stress in the heart all depend on appropriate control of mRNA expression programmes, which may be enacted at the level of DNA sequence, DNA accessibility and RNA-mediated control of mRNA output. Diverse mechanisms underlie promoter-driven transcription of coding mRNAs and their translation into protein, and the ways in which sequence alteration of DNA can make an impact on these processes have been studied for some time. The field of epigenetics explores changes in DNA structure that influence its accessibility by transcriptional machinery, and we are continuing to develop our understanding of how these processes modify cardiac RNA production. In this topical review, we do not focus on how DNA sequence and methylation, and histone interactions, may alter its accessibility, but rather on newly described mechanisms by which some transcribed RNAs may alter initial transcription or downstream processing of other RNAs, involving both short non-coding RNAs (microRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Here we present examples of how these two classes of non-coding RNAs mediate widespread effects on cardiac transcription and protein output in processes for which we use the broad term ‘epitranscriptional regulation’ and that are complementary to the DNA methylation and histone modification events studied by classical epigenetics.

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