Spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression is achieved through instructions provided by the distal transcriptional regulatory elements known as enhancers. How enhancers transmit such information to their targets has been the subject of intense investigation. Recent advances in high throughput analysis of the mammalian transcriptome have revealed a surprising result indicating that a large number of enhancers are transcribed to noncoding RNAs. Although long noncoding RNAs were initially shown to confer epigenetic transcriptional repression, recent studies have uncovered a role for a class of such transcripts in gene-specific activation, often from distal genomic regions. In this review, we discuss recent findings on the role of long noncoding RNAs in transcriptional regulation, with an emphasis on new developments on the functional links between long noncoding RNAs and enhancers.
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