Over the last few years, it has become evident that a significant proportion of human genes are associated with their respective natural antisense transcript, which overlaps the protein coding RNA transcribed in the sense direction. A body of evidence has emerged demonstrating that these long antisense non-coding transcripts actively participate in the regulation of protein-coding sense RNA transcription and RNA processing at various levels. The widespread occurrence of antisense transcription documents the prevalence of gene regulation by natural antisense transcripts. Antisense non-coding RNAs have been implicated in the silencing of tumor suppressor genes. The recent studies by our group (2) as well as others (3) suggest that the epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes is the result of an imbalance between the levels of bidirectional, i.e. sense and antisense, transcription. Here, we propose to study the roles of long non-coding antisense RNAs in gene silencing and in gene activation. We will identify and characterize long non-coding transcripts for representative silenced tumor suppressor genes. We will then re-activate the transcription of silenced tumor suppressors by interfering with the activity of antisense transcripts and determine the molecular mechanism of this re- activation. We will also determine the effects of tumor suppressor re-activation on the cellular phenotype. This work will increase our understanding of tumor suppressor silencing and by reverting the silenced state will provide new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches.

Public Health Relevance

We propose to identify and characterize long non-coding RNAs that are associated with silenced tumor suppressor genes in cancer. We hypothesize that these non-coding transcripts play a critical regulatory role in determining differential gene expression in cancer and will validate these regulatory activities of antisense transcripts on representative tumor suppressor genes. The results of this research will contribute to a mechanistic understanding of epigenetic changes in cancer and provide basic information for the development of new approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project (R01)
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Cancer Genetics Study Section (CG)
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Mietz, Judy
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Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla
United States
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Weinberg, Marc S; Morris, Kevin V (2013) Long non-coding RNA targeting and transcriptional de-repression. Nucleic Acid Ther 23:9-14
Johnsson, Per; Ackley, Amanda; Vidarsdottir, Linda et al. (2013) A pseudogene long-noncoding-RNA network regulates PTEN transcription and translation in human cells. Nat Struct Mol Biol 20:440-6
Polyak, Kornelia; Vogt, Peter K (2012) Progress in breast cancer research. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:2715-7
Morris, Kevin V (2011) The emerging role of RNA in the regulation of gene transcription in human cells. Semin Cell Dev Biol 22:351-8
Knowling, Stuart; Morris, Kevin V (2011) Epigenetic regulation of gene expression in human cells by noncoding RNAs. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci 102:1-10
Knowling, Stuart; Morris, Kevin V (2011) Non-coding RNA and antisense RNA. Nature's trash or treasure? Biochimie 93:1922-7