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G-Quadruplex Regulation of Neural Gene Expression
G-quadruplexes are four-stranded helical nucleic acid structures characterized by stacked tetrads of guanosine bases. These structures are widespread throughout mammalian genomic DNA and RNA transcriptomes, and prevalent across all tissues. The role of G-quadruplexes in cancer is well established, but there has been a growing exploration of these structures in the development and homeostasis of normal tissue. In this review, we focus on the roles of G-quadruplexes in directing gene expression in the nervous system, including the regulation of gene transcription, mRNA processing and trafficking, as well as protein translation. The role of G-quadruplexes and their molecular interactions in the pathology of neurological diseases is also examined. Outside of cancer, there has been only limited exploration of G-quadruplexes as potential intervention targets to treat disease or injury. We discuss studies that have used small molecule ligands to manipulate G-quadruplex stability in order to treat disease or direct neural stem/progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation into therapeutically relevant cell types. Understanding the many roles that G-quadruplexes have in the nervous system not only provides critical insight into fundamental molecular mechanisms that control neurological function, but it also provides opportunities to identify novel therapeutic targets to treat injury and disease.