Emerging role of long non-coding RNAs in autoimmune diseases

If anyone can explain this to me, please do!

The reason for posting is to highlight that there is research going on which might, eventually, help us to understand and, dare I suggest?, treat autoimmune disorders at the level of their cause.

Autoimmun Rev. 2015 May 16. pii: S1568-9972(15)00112-3. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2015.05.004. [Epub ahead of print]

Emerging role of long non-coding RNAs in autoimmune diseases.

Wu GC1, Pan HF1, Leng RX1, Wang G2, Li XP3, Li XM3, Ye DQ1.

Author information

1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Anhui Medical University, 81 Meishan Road, Hefei, 230032, Anhui, China; Anhui provincial laboratory of population health & major disease screening and diagnosis, Anhui Medical University, 81 Meishan Road, Hefei, 230032, Anhui, China.

2Department of Nephrology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, 678 Furong Road, Hefei, 230601, Anhui, China.

3Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Anhui Provincial Hospital, Affiliated to Anhui Medical University, 17 Lujiang Road, Hefei 230001, Anhui, China.


Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), with size larger than 200 nucleotides, is a new class of non-coding RNA. Emerging evidence has revealed that lncRNAs play a key role in the regulation of immunological functions and autoimmunity. Herein, we review the recent findings of lncRNA regulation in immune functions and in the development of autoimmunity and autoimmune disease. In addition, we focus on the involvement of lncRNA regulation in innate and adaptive immune responses, immune cell development, and differential expression of lncRNAs in autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), multiple sclerosis (MS), autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), psoriasis, polymyositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM) and Crohn's disease (CD).

Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.


autoimmune disease; autoimmunity; immune function; lncRNA; non-coding RNA



[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


Even the Wiki article is long and complex!


10 Replies

  • I'm putting on my ancient hat of molecular biologist here. Coding RNAs are those which are the genetic basis for production of proteins. That is, the cell machinery for translating their RNA sequences (directly derived from the corresponding stretch of DNA on the chromosome) uses these for synthesis of the proteins in the cell. Noncoding RNA does not enter this area of what we call transcription (DNA sequences copied on the gene as RNA) and translation (the reading of the sequence of codes on the RNA by the protein biosynthetic machinery to produce a protein). What noncoding RNA does is to interfere with the start point on the genome for making an RNA transcript - by inhibiting it or by moving the start point somewhere else (thus a different protein is produced). It also has many roles in attaching to and changing the activity of the polymerase enzyme which reads the DNA sequence on the genome and produces an RNA from it for protein synthetic use. The best easy description of long noncoding RNA is as a modulator and regulator of the functions that coding RNA has in making proteins. Thus you could imagine an unhappy situation where the immune system is implicated with unwelcome effects. It's hugely complicated, and it makes one wonder how we've survived all this complexity.

  • Thank you, diogenes.

    I knew I was way out of my depth! You have amply confirmed that - but what you have said does make sense.

  • Diogenes, what do they mean by 'a new class of non-coding RNA'? Why is it new? How did it appear if it's new? Is it something that has suddenly appeared or something they've only just discovered?

  • There are lots of RNAs in cells doing all kinds of things. More and more are being discovered - they were there all along but no-one recognised what they did. MicroRNAs are very little stretches that sit on the start point on the genome for particular genes, to regulate (on or off) the production of the message (RNA again) that goes to the protein making machinery in the cell to be translated into the relevant protein. These other bigger RNAs can do even more regulatory things. There is a whole panoply of RNAs controlling how the cells express themselves, are regulated and how and when they divide. A truly complex business.

  • Yes, I understand all that, but I was questioning the word 'new'. Does the word 'new' imply that they have just discovered it, or that it wasn't there before? Is it a 'new' phenomem?

  • It's been recently discovered but was always there hidden away. The vast majority of our human genome doesn't seem to do anything - they called this part "junk DNA" because originally there was no role for it apparently. Now however we know some of the socalled "junk" is producing RNAs that like the long noncoding RNAs regulate what the protein-coding genes do, how they work, when and how much. Mistakes in this area can lead to faulty reading and therefore if it occurs in the genes for immune response, deficiencies can occur (either shut down or stimulation). I've no doubt this can play a role in Hashimoto's for example.

  • That's great. Thank you for explaining that. It could explain a lot!

  • Sorry to sound ignorant, but do GP's keep up to date with the information from PubMed too?

  • With the best will in the world, on all sides, they can't.

    Somehow, what is there needs to be distilled, summarised, converted into clinically useful approaches, and disseminated.

    We here all have our focus on thyroid, and the sheer volume of that alone would be more than a working GP is likely to be able to manage. GPs are expected to cover the whole range of disorders...

  • You will have guessed that I'm totally clueless? :). I kind of hoped that GP's got regulars updates of these papers. Bummer!

    Thanks Rod.

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