Noncoding RNAs and RNA editing in brain development, functional diversification, and neurological disease

Mark F. Mehler, John S. Mattick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

243 Scopus citations


The progressive maturation and functional plasticity of the nervous system in health and disease involve a dynamic interplay between the transcriptome and the environment. There is a growing awareness that the previously unexplored molecular and functional interface mediating these complex gene-environmental interactions, particularly in brain, may encompass a sophisticated RNA regulatory network involving the twin processes of RNA editing and multifaceted actions of numerous subclasses of non-protein-coding RNAs. The mature nervous system encompasses a wide range of cell types and interconnections. Long-term changes in the strength of synaptic connections are thought to underlie memory retrieval, formation, stabilization, and effector functions. The evolving nervous system involves numerous developmental transitions, such as neurulation, neural tube patterning, neural stem cell expansion and maintenance, lineage elaboration, differentiation, axonal path finding, and synaptogenesis. Although the molecular bases for these processes are largely unknown, RNA-based epigenetic mechanisms appear to be essential for orchestrating these precise and versatile biological phenomena and in defining the etiology of a spectrum of neurological diseases. The concerted modulation of RNA editing and the selective expression of non-protein-coding RNAs during seminal as well as continuous state transitions may comprise the plastic molecular code needed to couple the intrinsic malleability of neural network connections to evolving environmental influences to establish diverse forms of short- and long-term memory, context-specific behavioral responses, and sophisticated cognitive capacities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-823
Number of pages25
JournalPhysiological Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology (medical)


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