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Non-coding RNA function in genome regulation and cell maintenance
Data from bacteria to humans now indicate that a huge number of expressed genes do not encode proteins but exist as non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). These findings raise important questions about the overall contribution of ncRNAs to cell regulation and function, and their roles in various diseases. We hypothesize that the non-coding transcriptome provides a vital layer of regulatory information to tune gene expression, mediate gene-environment interactions, and generate phenotypic variation and plasticity. We will exploit fission yeast as a potent model system to investigate how much genetic information is transacted by ncRNAs. We will relate ncRNA function to biological characteristics associated with cellular maintenance, stress response and ageing. Within this framework, we aim at addressing fundamental questions: How are ncRNAs regulated, transcriptionally and post-transcriptionally, in response to environmental factors? How do ncRNAs and environment combine to underpin complex quantitative traits such as global gene expression and longevity? How do variations in ncRNAs and genome regulation shape phenotypic diversity and plasticity? What ncRNAs and what regulatory or stochastic changes in gene expression are involved in cellular ageing, and how do they compare to stress response programmes? What are the systems-level contributions of ncRNAs in the information flow from genotype to phenotype?
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