Nitsche, A.,Stadler, P. F.

The diversity of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in the human transcriptome is in stark contrast to the sparse exploration of their functions concomitant with their conservation and evolution. The pervasive transcription of the largely non-coding human genome makes the evolutionary age and conservation patterns of lncRNAs to a topic of interest. Yet it is a fairly unexplored field and not that easy to determine as for protein-coding genes. Although there are a few experimentally studied cases, which are conserved at the sequence level, most lncRNAs exhibit weak or untraceable primary sequence conservation. Recent studies shed light on the interspecies conservation of secondary structures among lncRNA homologs by using diverse computational methods. This highlights the importance of structure on functionality of lncRNAs as opposed to the poor impact of primary sequence changes. Further clues in the evolution of lncRNAs are given by selective constraints on non-coding gene structures (e.g., promoters or splice sites) as well as the conservation of prevalent spatio-temporal expression patterns. However, a rapid evolutionary turnover is observable throughout the heterogeneous group of lncRNAs. This still gives rise to questions about its functional meaning.