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Circular RNAs (circRNAs) constitute a family of transcripts with unique structures and still largely unknown functions. Their biogenesis, which proceeds via a back-splicing reaction, is fairly well characterized, whereas their role in the modulation of physiologically relevant processes is still unclear. Here we??performed expression profiling of circRNAs during in??vitro differentiation of murine and human myoblasts, and we identified conserved species regulated in myogenesis and altered in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A high-content functional genomic screen allowed the study of their functional??role in muscle differentiation. One of them, circ-ZNF609, resulted in specifically controlling myoblast proliferation. Circ-ZNF609 contains an open reading frame spanning from the start codon, in common with the linear transcript, and terminating at an in-frame STOP codon, created upon circularization. Circ-ZNF609 is associated with heavy polysomes, and it is translated into a protein in a splicing-dependent and cap-independent manner, providing an example of a protein-coding circRNA in eukaryotes.

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There will always be more to Nature than meets the eye. During the 1950s and the 1960s, the importance of RNA in protein synthesis gradually emerged. RNA has always been seen as a linear molecule, a bit like a sentence which has a beginning and an end, and...