Alternative cleavage and polyadenylation in health and disease


Most human genes have multiple sites at which RNA 3' end cleavage and polyadenylation can occur, enabling the expression of distinct transcript isoforms under different conditions. Novel methods to sequence RNA 3' ends have generated comprehensive catalogues of polyadenylation (poly(A)) sites; their analysis using innovative computational methods has revealed how poly(A) site choice is regulated by core RNA 3' end processing factors, such as cleavage factor I and cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor, as well as by other RNA-binding proteins, particularly splicing factors. Here, we review the experimental and computational methods that have enabled the global mapping of mRNA and of long non-coding RNA 3' ends, quantification of the resulting isoforms and the discovery of regulators of alternative cleavage and polyadenylation (APA). We highlight the different types of APA-derived isoforms and their functional differences, and illustrate how APA contributes to human diseases, including cancer and haematological, immunological and neurological diseases.

Nature Reviews Genetics