What Is Non-Coding RNA?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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Non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a type of RNA that does not have amino acid codes for specific proteins. This type of RNA differs from messenger RNA (mRNA), which translates the gene sequences expressed on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecules into proteins. Non-coding RNA is present in various forms and regulates chromosomal activity, helps divide chromosomes, prevents the translation of specific proteins and genes, and eliminates mRNA when it is not needed.

In simple organisms, such as Escherichia coli, non-coding RNA regulates the translation of mRNA. Multicellular and more complex organisms have a higher dominance of it, which may suggest the presence of a complex RNA signaling system within more advanced cells. Types of non-coding RNA include ribosomal RNA (rRNA), which form part of the protein-synthesizing components in cells known as ribosomes, and transfer RNA (tRNA), known to transfer specific amino acids to appropriate ribosomal sites inside cells.

These RNA components make up part of the cell’s structure and aid in the translation process without doing any transcription themselves. Certain types of non-coding RNA may also trigger the transcription process to begin and have a direct effect on regulating the lifecycle of the cell. They are also responsible for maintaining chromosomes and guiding their separation, and others are components of biological processes, such as those responsible for transporting proteins to the cell’s endoplasmic reticulum membrane. Another kind might also serve as sort of a scaffold for building macromolecules.


Non-coding RNA is capable of receiving or sending signals that regulate genetic and cellular processes. As much as 70% of mammalian genetic information may be transcribed onto such RNA, and the macromolecules could have more transcriptions than those expressed in the genome. The non-coding genetic material is not likely responsible for the general characteristics of a biological organism, but mutations in their coding can lead to a variety of diseases and conditions, such as Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes. Growth deficiencies, neurological defects, eye problems, and even cancer can also result.

The ability of a cell to respond to stress is also regulated by non-coding RNA. This type of RNA and its variations makes up a large part of the human genome. It can also adapt to different functions and environmental requirements, and might also play a role in ongoing biological adaptations. There are more non-coding sequences than coding ones in the human genome, meaning that non-coding RNA plays a vital biological function at the molecular level.


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