Most of the mammalian genome is transcribed. This generates a vast repertoire of transcripts that includes protein-coding messenger RNAs, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and repetitive sequences, such as SINEs (short interspersed nuclear elements). A large percentage of ncRNAs are nuclear-enriched with unknown function. Antisense lncRNAs may form sense-antisense pairs by pairing with a protein-coding gene on the opposite strand to regulate epigenetic silencing, transcription and mRNA stability. Here we identify a nuclear-enriched lncRNA antisense to mouse ubiquitin carboxy-terminal hydrolase L1 (Uchl1), a gene involved in brain function and neurodegenerative diseases. Antisense Uchl1 increases UCHL1 protein synthesis at a post-transcriptional level, hereby identifying a new functional class of lncRNAs. Antisense Uchl1 activity depends on the presence of a 5′ overlapping sequence and an embedded inverted SINEB2 element. These features are shared by other natural antisense transcripts and can confer regulatory activity to an artificial antisense to green fluorescent protein. Antisense Uchl1 function is under the control of stress signalling pathways, as mTORC1 inhibition by rapamycin causes an increase in UCHL1 protein that is associated to the shuttling of antisense Uchl1 RNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Antisense Uchl1 RNA is then required for the association of the overlapping sense protein-coding mRNA to active polysomes for translation. These data reveal another layer of gene expression control at the post-transcriptional level.
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