The GENCODE v7 catalog of human long noncoding RNAs: Analysis of their gene structure, evolution, and expression

Thomas Derrien, Rory Johnson, Giovanni Bussotti, Andrea Tanzer, Sarah Djebali, Hagen Tilgner, Gregory Guernec, David Martin, Angelika Merkel, David G. Knowles, Julien Lagarde, Lavanya Veeravalli, Xiaoan Ruan, Yijun Ruan, Timo Lassmann, Piero Carninci, James B. Brown, Leonard Lipovich, Jose M. Gonzalez, Mark ThomasCarrie A. Davis, Ramin Shiekhattar, Thomas R. Gingeras, Tim J. Hubbard, Cedric Notredame, Jennifer Harrow, Roderic Guigó

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4040 Citations (Scopus)


The human genome contains many thousands of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). While several studies have demonstrated compelling biological and disease roles for individual examples, analytical and experimental approaches to investigate these genes have been hampered by the lack of comprehensive lncRNA annotation. Here, we present and analyze the most complete human lncRNA annotation to date, produced by the GENCODE consortium within the framework of the ENCODE project and comprising 9277 manually annotated genes producing 14,880 transcripts. Our analyses indicate that lncRNAs are generated through pathways similar to that of protein-coding genes, with similar histone-modification profiles, splicing signals, and exon/intron lengths. In contrast to protein-coding genes, however, lncRNAs display a striking bias toward two-exon transcripts, they are predominantly localized in the chromatin and nucleus, and a fraction appear to be preferentially processed into small RNAs. They are under stronger selective pressure than neutrally evolving sequences - particularly in their promoter regions, which display levels of selection comparable to protein-coding genes. Importantly, about one-third seem to have arisen within the primate lineage. Comprehensive analysis of their expression in multiple human organs and brain regions shows that lncRNAs are generally lower expressed than protein-coding genes, and display more tissue-specific expression patterns, with a large fraction of tissue-specific lncRNAs expressed in the brain. Expression correlation analysis indicates that lncRNAs show particularly striking positive correlation with the expression of antisense coding genes. This GENCODE annotation represents a valuable resource for future studies of lncRNAs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1775-1789
Number of pages15
JournalGenome Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


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