Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are largely heterogeneous and functionally uncharacterized. Here, using FANTOM5 cap analysis of gene expression (CAGE) data, we integrate multiple transcript collections to generate a comprehensive atlas of 27,919 human lncRNA genes with high-confidence 5′ ends and expression profiles across 1,829 samples from the major human primary cell types and tissues. Genomic and epigenomic classification of these lncRNAs reveals that most intergenic lncRNAs originate from enhancers rather than from promoters. Incorporating genetic and expression data, we show that lncRNAs overlapping trait-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms are specifically expressed in cell types relevant to the traits, implicating these lncRNAs in multiple diseases. We further demonstrate that lncRNAs overlapping expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL)-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms of messenger RNAs are co-expressed with the corresponding messenger RNAs, suggesting their potential roles in transcriptional regulation. Combining these findings with conservation data, we identify 19,175 potentially functional lncRNAs in the human genome.

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FANTOM5 was made possible by research grants for the RIKEN Omics Science Center and the Innovative Cell Biology by Innovative Technology (Cell Innovation Program) from the MEXT to Y.H. It was also supported by research grants for the RIKEN Preventive Medicine and Diagnosis Innovation Program (RIKEN PMI) to Y.H. and the RIKEN Centre for Life Science Technologies, Division of Genomic Technologies (RIKEN CLST (DGT)) from the MEXT, Japan. A.R.R.F. is supported by a Senior Cancer Research Fellowship from the Cancer Research Trust, the MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer and the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (DP160101960). S.D. is supported by award number U54HG007004 from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, funding from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) under grant number BIO2011-26205, and SEV-2012-0208 from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Y.A.M. is supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant 15-14-30002. We thank RIKEN GeNAS for generation of the CAGE and RNA-seq libraries, the Netherlands Brain Bank for brain materials, the RIKEN BioResource Centre for providing cell lines and all members of the FANTOM5 consortium for discussions, in particular H. Ashoor, M. Frith, R. Guigo, A. Tanzer, E. Wood, H. Jia, K. Bailie, J. Harrow, E. Valen, R. Andersson, K. Vitting-Seerup, A. Sandelin, M. Taylor, J. Shin, R. Mori, C. Mungall and T. Meehan.

Author information

Author notes

    • Nicolas Bertin
    • , Sarah Djebali
    •  & Mickaël Mendez

    Present addresses: Human Longevity Singapore Pte. Ltd., Singapore (N.B.); GenPhySE, Université de Toulouse, INRA, INPT, ENVT, Castanet Tolosan, France (S.D.); Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (M.M.).


  1. RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies (Division of Genomic Technologies), 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, 230-0045 Japan

    • Chung-Chau Hon
    • , Jordan A. Ramilowski
    • , Jayson Harshbarger
    • , Jessica Severin
    • , Marina Lizio
    • , Hideya Kawaji
    • , Takeya Kasukawa
    • , Masayoshi Itoh
    • , A. Maxwell Burroughs
    • , Shohei Noma
    • , Chi-Wai Yip
    • , Imad Abugessaisa
    • , Mickaël Mendez
    • , Akira Hasegawa
    • , Dave Tang
    • , Timo Lassmann
    • , Peter Heutink
    • , Harukazu Suzuki
    • , Carsten O. Daub
    • , Michiel J. L. de Hoon
    • , Erik Arner
    • , Piero Carninci
    •  & Alistair R. R. Forrest
  2. RIKEN Omics Science Center (OSC), 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama 230-0045, Japan

    • Jordan A. Ramilowski
    • , Jayson Harshbarger
    • , Nicolas Bertin
    • , Jessica Severin
    • , Marina Lizio
    • , Hideya Kawaji
    • , Masayoshi Itoh
    • , A. Maxwell Burroughs
    • , Shohei Noma
    • , Mickaël Mendez
    • , Akira Hasegawa
    • , Dave Tang
    • , Timo Lassmann
    • , Harukazu Suzuki
    • , Carsten O. Daub
    • , Michiel J. L. de Hoon
    • , Erik Arner
    • , Yoshihide Hayashizaki
    • , Piero Carninci
    •  & Alistair R. R. Forrest
  3. Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore, Centre for Translational Medicine, 14 Medical Drive, #12-01, Singapore 117599, Singapore

    • Nicolas Bertin
  4. University of Bristol, Department of Computer Science, Life Sciences building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK

    • Owen J. L. Rackham
    •  & Julian Gough
  5. Program in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders, Duke-NUS Medical School, 8 College Road, 169857 Singapore

    • Owen J. L. Rackham
  6. Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University Auckland, Albany 0632, New Zealand

    • Elena Denisenko
    •  & Sebastian Schmeier
  7. Biotechnology Research Institute for Drug Discovery (BRD), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba Central 2, 1-1-1 Umezono, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8568, Japan

    • Thomas M. Poulsen
  8. RIKEN Preventive Medicine and Diagnosis Innovation Program, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama, 351-0198, Japan

    • Hideya Kawaji
    • , Masayoshi Itoh
    •  & Yoshihide Hayashizaki
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20894, USA

    • A. Maxwell Burroughs
  10. Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Dr. Aiguader 88, Barcelona 08003, Spain

    • Sarah Djebali
  11. Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), Dr Aiguader 88, Barcelona 08003, Spain

    • Sarah Djebali
  12. Computational Bioscience Research Center; Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering Division, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia

    • Tanvir Alam
  13. Institute of Bioengineering, Research Center of Biotechnology RAS, Moscow 119071, Russia

    • Yulia A. Medvedeva
  14. Vavilov Institute of General Genetic, RAS, Moscow 119991, Russia

    • Yulia A. Medvedeva
  15. Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, QEII Medical Centre and Centre for Medical Research, the University of Western Australia, Nedlands 6009, Western Australia, Australia

    • Alison C. Testa
    •  & Alistair R. R. Forrest
  16. Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA

    • Leonard Lipovich
  17. Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA

    • Leonard Lipovich
  18. Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, 100 Roberts Road, Subiaco, Subiaco, 6008, Western Australia, Australia

    • Dave Tang
    •  & Timo Lassmann
  19. German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), D-72076 Tübingen, Germany

    • Peter Heutink
  20. Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany

    • Magda Babina
  21. Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia

    • Christine A. Wells
  22. Faculty of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne, 3010, Australia

    • Christine A. Wells
  23. RIKEN CLST (Division of Bio-Function Dynamics Imaging), Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan

    • Soichi Kojima
  24. Cell Engineering Division, RIKEN BioResource Center, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0074, Japan

    • Yukio Nakamura
  25. Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8577, Japan

    • Yukio Nakamura
  26. Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, 141 83 Huddinge, Sweden

    • Carsten O. Daub


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The manuscript was written by A.R.R.F., C.C.H., J.A.R. and N.B. with help from P.C., E.A. and M.L. C.C.H., J.A.R., J.H., N.B., O.J.L.R., Y.H., P.C. and A.R.R.F. are core authors for the lncRNA work. P.H., M.B., C.A.W., S.K. and Y.N. provided samples. C.C.H. performed most of the analyses with help from others as listed below. C.C.H., N.B., J.A.R., O.R., J.G., A.M.B., S.D., A.H. and T.L.: RNA-seq assembly. C.C.H., J.A.R. N.B., A.T.C. and M.J. L.d.H.: coding potential assessment. C.C.H. devised and implemented the TIEScore, transcript model integration and CAT. S.S., C.C.H. and E.D. performed the GWAS and eQTL analyses. C.C.H., T.A. and Y.A.M. analysed TIRs. C.C.H. and T.M.P.: expression specificity analysis. L.L.: discussions in planning. J.H. implemented the web tool. M.I. and P.C. generated CAGE data. S.N. generated the RNA-seq. H.K. and T.L. clustered the CAGE data. C.C.H., N.B. and J.S. made ZENBU configurations. M.L., H.K., T.K. and I.A.: data handling. C.W.Y. curated cell-type and trait associations. M.M. helped with cell-type enrichment analysis. D.T. helped with repeats analysis. FANTOM5 headquarters: Y.H., A.R.R.F., P.C., M.I., C.O.D., H.S., T.L. and E.A. P.C., Y.H. and A.R.R.F. conceived the project and managed FANTOM5. The scientific coordinator was A.R.R.F. and the general organizer was Y.H.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Piero Carninci or Alistair R. R. Forrest.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks M. Gerstein, J. Rinn and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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