Normal skeletal development requires tight coordination of transcriptional networks, signaling pathways, and biomechanical cues, and many of these pathways are dysregulated in pathological conditions affecting cartilage and bone. Recently, a significant role has been identified for long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) in developing and maintaining cellular phenotypes, and improvements in sequencing technologies have led to the identification of thousands of lncRNAs across diverse cell types, including the cells within cartilage and bone. It is clear that lncRNAs play critical roles in regulating gene expression. For example, they can function as epigenetic regulators in the nucleus via chromatin modulation to control gene transcription, or in the cytoplasm, where they can function as scaffolds for protein-binding partners or modulate the activity of other coding and noncoding RNAs. In this review, we discuss the growing list of lncRNAs involved in normal development and/or homeostasis of the skeletal system, the potential mechanisms by which these lncRNAs might function, and recent improvements in the methodologies available to study lncRNA functions in vitro and in vivo. Finally, we address the likely utility of lncRNAs as biomarkers and therapeutic targets for diseases of the skeletal system, including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and in cancers of the skeletal system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-141
Number of pages26
JournalConnective Tissue Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


  • Bone
  • cartilage
  • chondrocyte
  • long noncoding (lnc) RNAs
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteoblast
  • osteosarcoma


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