Alternative polyadenylation of mRNA and its role in cancer

Fuwen Yuan, William Hankey, Eric J. Wagner, Wei Li, Qianben Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is a molecular process that generates diversity at the 3′ end of RNA polymerase II transcripts from over 60% of human genes. APA is derived from the existence of multiple polyadenylation signals (PAS) within the same transcript, and results in the differential inclusion of sequence information at the 3′ end. While APA can occur between two PASs allowing for generation of transcripts with distinct coding potential from a single gene, most APA occurs within the untranslated region (3′UTR) and changes the length and content of these non-coding sequences. APA within the 3′UTR can have tremendous impact on its regulatory potential of the mRNA through a variety of mechanisms, and indeed this layer of gene expression regulation has profound impact on processes vital to cell growth and development. Recent studies have particularly highlighted the importance of APA dysregulation in cancer onset and progression. Here, we review the current knowledge of APA and its impacts on mRNA stability, translation, localization and protein localization. We also discuss the implications of APA dysregulation in cancer research and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalGenes and Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • 3′ untranslated region
  • Alternative polyadenylation
  • Cancer
  • Gene regulation
  • Polyadenylation signals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cell Biology


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