The genome is primarily non-protein coding DNA, which is actively transcribed in a cell and tissue-specific fashion. Research has revealed that noncoding RNAs have important biological functions, regulating gene expression at the levels of transcription, RNA processing, and translation. Noncoding RNAs can promote genome rearrangement, and also instruct DNA synthesis. These RNAs also protect host genomes from foreign nucleic acids. Noncoding RNAs can have enzymatic activity (ribozymes, riboswitches), but can also function as part of a protein complex (ribosomes, microRNAs, snRNPs, snoRNPs, long noncoding RNAs). Therefore, understanding the function and mechanism of noncoding RNAs will reveal novel insights for therapeutic interventions for a variety of diseases.
There are a number of Penn research labs that are investigating the function and mechanism of various types of noncoding RNAs, in the context of health and disease. This sub-group will include labs investigating regulatory functions of RNA molecules that broadly fit into several categories: small noncoding RNAs (such as miRNAs, piRNAs) and long nocoding RNAs (transcripts > 100nt).