CircRNAs: a regulator of cellular stress

Joseph W. Fischer, Anthony K.L. Leung

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Circular RNAs (CircRNAs) were first identified as a viroid and later found to also be an endogenous RNA splicing product in eukaryotes. In recent years, a series of RNA-sequencing analyses from a diverse range of eukaryotes have shed new light on these eukaryotic circRNAs, revealing dynamic expression patterns in various developmental stages and physiological conditions. In this review, we focus on circRNAs implicated in stress response pathways and explore potential mechanisms underlying their regulation. To date, circRNAs have been shown to act as scaffolds in the assembly of protein complexes, sequester proteins from native subcellular localization, activate transcription of parental genes, inhibit RNA–protein interactions, and function as regulators of microRNA activity. Although the mechanism modulating circRNA levels during stress remains unclear, circRNAs are shown to be regulated during biogenesis, degradation, and exportation. As circRNAs do not have 5′ and 3′ ends, there are no entry points for exoribonucleases to initiate degradation. Such inherent stability makes this class of RNA a strong candidate to maintain homeostasis in the face of environmental challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-233
Number of pages14
JournalCritical reviews in biochemistry and molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2017


  • Circular RNA
  • RNA stability
  • back-splicing
  • circRNA biogenesis
  • circRNA degradation
  • circularization
  • environment
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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