Identification of functional long non-coding RNAs in C. elegans

Functional characterisation of the compact genome of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans remains incomplete despite its sequencing twenty years ago. The last decade of research has seen a tremendous increase in the number of non-coding RNAs identified in various organisms. While we have mechanistic understandings of small non-coding RNA pathways, long non-coding RNAs represent a diverse class of active transcripts whose function remains less well characterised.

By analysing hundreds of published transcriptome datasets, we annotated 3,397 potential lncRNAs including 146 multi-exonic loci that showed increased nucleotide conservation and GC content relative to other non-coding regions. Using CRISPR / Cas9 genome editing we generated deletion mutants for ten long non-coding RNA loci. Using automated microscopy for in-depth phenotyping, we show that six of the long non-coding RNA loci are required for normal development and fertility. Using RNA interference mediated gene knock-down, we provide evidence that for two of the long non-coding RNA loci, the observed phenotypes are dependent on the corresponding RNA transcripts.

Our results highlight that a large section of the non-coding regions of the C. elegans genome remain unexplored. Based on our in vivo analysis of a selection of high-confidence lncRNA loci, we expect that a significant proportion of these high-confidence regions is likely to have biological function at either the genomic or the transcript level.

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DOI 10.1186/s12915-019-0635-7,10.1101/383919
Date Last Updated 2019-07-22T08:15:06.717616
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