Visualizing the structure and motion of the long noncoding RNA HOTAIR

Rachel Spokoini-Stern, Dimitar Stamov, Hadass Jessel, Lior Aharoni, Heiko Haschke, Jonathan Giron, Ron Unger, Eran Segal, Almogit Abu-Horowitz, Ido Bachelet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Long noncoding RNA molecules (lncRNAs) are estimated to account for the majority of eukaryotic genomic transcripts, and have been associated with multiple diseases in humans. However, our understanding of their structure-function relationships is scarce, with structural evidence coming mostly from indirect biochemical approaches or computational predictions. Here we describe direct visualization of the lncRNA HOTAIR (HOx Transcript AntIsense RNA) using atomic force microscopy (AFM) in nucleus-like conditions at 37°. Our observations reveal that HOTAIR has a discernible, although flexible, shape. Fast AFM scanning enabled the quantification of the motion of HOTAIR, and provided visual evidence of physical interactions with genomic DNA segments. Our report provides a biologically plausible description of the anatomy and intrinsic properties of HOTAIR, and presents a framework for studying the structural biology of lncRNAs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-636
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Spokoini-Stern et al. This article is distributed exclusively by the RNA Society for the first 12 months after the full-issue publication date (see After 12 months, it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International), as described at


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Long noncoding RNA


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