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Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are emerging as important regulators in various pathological conditions, including human cancers. NcRNAs exert potentially crucial effects on cell cycle progression, proliferation, and invasion in cancer cells by targeting various cell cycle-related proteins at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. As one of the key cell cycle regulatory proteins, p21 is involved in various processes, including the cellular response to DNA damage, cell growth, invasion, metastasis, apoptosis, and senescence. P21 has been shown to have either a tumor-suppressive or oncogenic effect depending on the cellular localization and posttranslational modifications. P21 exerts a significant regulatory effect on both G1/S and G2/M checkpoints by regulating the function of cyclin-dependent kinase enzymes (CDKs) or interacting with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). P21 has an important effect on the cellular response to DNA damage by separating DNA replication enzymes from PCNA and inhibiting DNA synthesis resulting in G1 phase arrest. Furthermore, p21 has been shown to negatively regulate the G2/M checkpoint through the inactivation of cyclin-CDK complexes. In response to any cell damage caused by genotoxic agents, p21 exerts its regulatory effects by nuclear preservation of cyclin B1-CDK1 and preventing their activation. Notably, several ncRNAs, including lncRNAs and miRNAs, have been shown to be involved in tumor initiation and progression through the regulation of the p21 signaling axis. In this review, we discuss the miRNA/lncRNA-dependent mechanisms that regulate p21 and their effects on gastrointestinal tumorigenesis. A better understanding of the regulatory effects of ncRNAs on the p21 signaling may help to discover novel therapeutic targets in gastrointestinal cancer. Copyright© Bentham Science Publishers; For any queries, please email at


Farzad Rahmani, Mehrdad Zandigohar, Pegah Safavi, Maryam Behzadi, Zeynab Ghorbani, Mahya Payazdan, Gordon Ferns, Seyed Mahdi Hassanian, Amir Avan. The Interplay between Noncoding RNAs and p21 Signaling in Gastrointestinal Cancer: From Tumorigenesis to Metastasis. Current pharmaceutical design. 2023;29(10):766-776

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PMID: 36876835

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