Li Z, Huang C, Bao C, Chen L, Lin M, Wang X, Zhong G, Yu B, Hu W, Dai L, Zhu P, Chang Z, Wu Q, Zhao Y, Jia Y, Xu P, Liu H, Shan G
Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) have numerous roles in development and disease, and one of the prominent roles is to regulate gene expression. A vast number of circular RNAs (circRNAs) have been identified, and some have been shown to function as microRNA sponges in animal cells. Here, we report a class of circRNAs associated with RNA polymerase II in human cells. In these circRNAs, exons are circularized with introns 'retained' between exons; we term them exon-intron circRNAs or EIciRNAs. EIciRNAs predominantly localize in the nucleus, interact with U1 snRNP and promote transcription of their parental genes. Our findings reveal a new role for circRNAs in regulating gene expression in the nucleus, in which EIciRNAs enhance the expression of their parental genes in cis, and highlight a regulatory strategy for transcriptional control via specific RNA-RNA interaction between U1 snRNA and EIciRNAs.