Circular RNAs in Embryogenesis and Cell Differentiation With a Focus on Cancer Development

Silvia Di Agostino, Anna Riccioli, Paola De Cesaris, Giulia Fontemaggi, Giovanni Blandino, Antonio Filippini, Francesco Fazi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the recent years thousands of non-coding RNAs have been identified, also thanks to highthroughput sequencing technologies. Among them, circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a well-represented class characterized by the high sequence conservation and cell type specific expression in eukaryotes. They are covalently closed loops formed through back-splicing. Recently, circRNAs were shown to regulate a variety of cellular processes functioning as miRNA sponges, RBP binding molecules, transcriptional regulators, scaffold for protein translation, as well as immune regulators. A growing number of studies are showing that deregulated expression of circRNAs plays important and decisive actions during the development of several human diseases, including cancer. The research on their biogenesis and on the various molecular mechanisms in which they are involved is going very fast, however, there are still few studies that address their involvement in embryogenesis and eukaryotic development. This review has the intent to describe the most recent progress in the study of the biogenesis and molecular activities of circRNAs providing insightful information in the field of embryogenesis and cell differentiation. In addition, we describe the latest research on circRNAs as novel promising biomarkers in diverse types of tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number389
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - May 27 2020


  • cancer
  • circRNA
  • development
  • embryogenesis
  • stemness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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