The non-coding genome in genetic brain disorders: New targets for therapy?

Eva Medico-Salsench, Faidra Karkala, Kristina Lanko*, Tahsin Stefan Barakat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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The non-coding genome, consisting of more than 98% of all genetic information in humans and once judged as 'Junk DNA', is increasingly moving into the spotlight in the field of human genetics. Non-coding regulatory elements (NCREs) are crucial to ensure correct spatio-temporal gene expression. Technological advancements have allowed to identify NCREs on a large scale, and mechanistic studies have helped to understand the biological mechanisms underlying their function. It is increasingly becoming clear that genetic alterations of NCREs can cause genetic disorders, including brain diseases. In this review, we concisely discuss mechanisms of gene regulation and how to investigate them, and give examples of non-coding alterations of NCREs that give rise to human brain disorders. The cross-talk between basic and clinical studies enhances the understanding of normal and pathological function of NCREs, allowing better interpretation of already existing and novel data. Improved functional annotation of NCREs will not only benefit diagnostics for patients, but might also lead to novel areas of investigations for targeted therapies, applicable to a wide panel of genetic disorders. The intrinsic complexity and precision of the gene regulation process can be turned to the advantage of highly specific treatments. We further discuss this exciting new field of 'enhancer therapy' based on recent examples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-683
Number of pages13
JournalEssays in Biochemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


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