Research Topic

Structural and Functional Characterization of Circular RNAs

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Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are covalently closed single-stranded RNA molecules without free 5' and 3' ends. CircRNAs were first discovered in plant viroids in the 1980s, followed by their identification in eukaryotes. The detection of circRNA molecules was initially ascribed to technical or splicing ...

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are covalently closed single-stranded RNA molecules without free 5' and 3' ends. CircRNAs were first discovered in plant viroids in the 1980s, followed by their identification in eukaryotes. The detection of circRNA molecules was initially ascribed to technical or splicing abnormalities, resulting in the dismissal of circRNAs as non-functional artifacts for almost three decades. However, the advent of high-throughput RNA-sequencing and novel computational algorithms led to the identification of a vast number of functional circRNAs in various organisms. CircRNAs are have been found to regulate gene expression by acting as competitors for mRNA splicing, or as sponges for microRNAs and RNA-Binding Proteins (RBPs). Although more than one hundred thousand circRNAs have been identified in humans so far, functions have been described for only a handful of them.

Despite the increasing number of studies on circRNAs, the isolation and identification of pure circRNAs remains challenging. Furthermore, functional roles of the vast number of identified circRNAs, including the most abundant and conserved ones, remain to be fully elucidated. Additionally, better computational pipelines and databases are required for more efficient identification and analysis of the interactions of circRNAs with other regulatory molecules. Finally, we are only beginning to understand the implications of circRNA deregulation in pathophysiological conditions, and there is unprecedented interest in the systematic identification and characterization of circRNAs as prognostic and diagnostic biomarkers as well as therapeutic targets.

This Research Topic aims to collect Original Research Articles, Brief Research Reports, Methods, Reviews, and Mini Reviews discussing the biology of circRNAs, including (while not limited to) the following topic areas:
· Methods to identify and quantify circRNAs by circRNA-seq, circRNA microarray, RT-PCR, and Northern blot analyses.
· Computational tools for the identification and quantification of circRNAs from RNA-seq data
· Approaches to analyze the interaction of circRNAs with regulatory RBPs and microRNAs
· Functional characterization of circRNAs in cell physiology and disease processes
· Computational tools for functional analysis of circular RNA, including the prediction of their peptide-coding potential
· Model systems to study the biology of circRNA on development and disease in vivo


Keywords: Circular RNA, Competing Endogenous RNA, RNA-Binding Protein, microRNA, Gene Regulation


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