Recent scientific advances have demonstrated the existence of extensive RNA-based regulatory networks involved in orchestrating nearly every cellular process in health and various disease states. This previously hidden layer of functional RNAs is derived largely from non-protein-coding DNA sequences that constitute more than 98% of the genome in humans. These non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) include subclasses that are well known, such as transfer RNAs and ribosomal RNAs, as well as those that have more recently been characterized, such as microRNAs, small nucleolar RNAs, and long ncRNAs. In this review, we examine the role of these novel ncRNAs in the nervous system and highlight emerging evidence that implicates RNA-based networks in the molecular pathogenesis of stroke. We also describe RNA editing, a related epigenetic mechanism that is partly responsible for generating the exquisite degrees of environmental responsiveness and molecular diversity that characterize ncRNAs. In addition, we discuss the development of future therapeutic strategies for locus-specific and genome-wide regulation of genes and functional gene networks through the modulation of RNA transcription, posttranscriptional RNA processing (eg, RNA modifications, quality control, intracellular trafficking, and local and long-distance intercellular transport), and RNA translation. These novel approaches for neural cell- and tissue-selective reprogramming of epigenetic regulatory mechanisms are likely to promote more effective neuroprotective and neural regenerative responses for safeguarding and even restoring central nervous system function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Neurology