Research Topic

RNA Machines

About this Research Topic


RNA is an ancient multifunctional biopolymer. Its versatility may be seen as a restriction in specialized efficiencies where RNA is surpassed by the DNA for storage and polypeptides for structural and enzymatic functions. However, billions of years of evolution have not led to a replacement or ‘molecular extinction’ of RNA. RNA managed to remain at the core of the information decoding across all life, but also to expand in arguably later evolutionary developments such as alternative splicing and its control and gene regulation by micro, long non-coding and other types of non-messenger RNA. RNA keeps serving a multitude of functions where specific recognition of nucleic acid sequences and protein structures is required, such as in maintenance of telomeres and in bacterial adaptive immunity. The number of RNA ‘types’ continues to grow and while it is important to discover new varieties, functions and localisations of RNA, it is equally important to understand and harness the molecular mechanisms that are distinct to the RNA-enabled biological pathways.

In this Research Topic, our goal is to abstract somewhat from the physiological descriptions and enumeration of RNA species and primarily focus on the underlying mechanistic aspects that identify with the RNA-specific functions. How RNA is discriminated from DNA in particular cases of molecular recognition? Why RNA is used for certain processes rather than DNA, proteins or other macromolecules? What is a structural, thermodynamic and kinetic basis of RNA-directed reactions? The goal of this Topic is to create a place where the most recent research as well as ideas on purely mechanistic aspects of RNA as a primary biopolymer for building molecular machines could be extensively presented.

The scope of this Research Topic is indeed broad from the perspective of organisms, (patho)physiological conditions or processes involved. However, the Topic contributions must bring new, reshape, or review the existing knowledge about structure and molecular mechanisms of RNA function. Background information on biological importance enough to place the mechanisms in focus into a broader picture must nonetheless be included. We encourage research that would provide a deeply mechanistic interpretation of RNA including structural, thermodynamic and kinetic analyses and that would include genetic, evolutionary and medical considerations of RNA-mediated molecular interactions and reactions.

Summarized below are non-exclusive examples of themes that could comprise this topic. Work of any kind (original in vivo, in vitro or in silico experimental, review, commentary or highlight) is encouraged.

• RNA-encoded alternative and non-canonical splicing events.
• Molecular functions and interactions of long non-coding and circular RNA.
• Broad catalytic and catalysis-augmenting function of RNA, such as in CRISPR-Cas9 and similar systems.
• Stability, repair and degradation mechanisms involving RNA:DNA and RNA:RNA hybrids (telomeres, R-loops, retrotransposons, micro RNAs).
• Mechanisms of RNA editing.
• Variations of decoding into amino acids guided by structure and sequence of RNA (messenger, transfer and ribosomal).
• Principles and evolution of the genetic code from the perspective of RNA structure and interactions.
• Mechanisms of messenger RNA recognition and conveying by the ribosomes, such as during any or all phases of mRNA translation into proteins.
• Structural and sequence contexts of RNA nucleotide modifications and their molecular functions.
• Mechanisms of specific molecular recognition mediated by RNA structures in naturally occurring or synthetic instances, such as in RNA viruses and RNA-based biosensors, or in single-molecule nano-devices.
• Mechanisms of therapeutically applicable coding and non-coding RNA function.

Topic Editor Kirk Jensen holds patents related to the Research Topic subject. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests.


Keywords: RNA, molecular interactions, ribozyme, catalytic RNA, RNA binding proteins, splicing, translation, transcription


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.


RNA is an ancient multifunctional biopolymer. Its versatility may be seen as a restriction in specialized efficiencies where RNA is surpassed by the DNA for storage and polypeptides for structural and enzymatic functions. However, billions of years of evolution have not led to a replacement or ‘molecular extinction’ of RNA. RNA managed to remain at the core of the information decoding across all life, but also to expand in arguably later evolutionary developments such as alternative splicing and its control and gene regulation by micro, long non-coding and other types of non-messenger RNA. RNA keeps serving a multitude of functions where specific recognition of nucleic acid sequences and protein structures is required, such as in maintenance of telomeres and in bacterial adaptive immunity. The number of RNA ‘types’ continues to grow and while it is important to discover new varieties, functions and localisations of RNA, it is equally important to understand and harness the molecular mechanisms that are distinct to the RNA-enabled biological pathways.

In this Research Topic, our goal is to abstract somewhat from the physiological descriptions and enumeration of RNA species and primarily focus on the underlying mechanistic aspects that identify with the RNA-specific functions. How RNA is discriminated from DNA in particular cases of molecular recognition? Why RNA is used for certain processes rather than DNA, proteins or other macromolecules? What is a structural, thermodynamic and kinetic basis of RNA-directed reactions? The goal of this Topic is to create a place where the most recent research as well as ideas on purely mechanistic aspects of RNA as a primary biopolymer for building molecular machines could be extensively presented.

The scope of this Research Topic is indeed broad from the perspective of organisms, (patho)physiological conditions or processes involved. However, the Topic contributions must bring new, reshape, or review the existing knowledge about structure and molecular mechanisms of RNA function. Background information on biological importance enough to place the mechanisms in focus into a broader picture must nonetheless be included. We encourage research that would provide a deeply mechanistic interpretation of RNA including structural, thermodynamic and kinetic analyses and that would include genetic, evolutionary and medical considerations of RNA-mediated molecular interactions and reactions.

Summarized below are non-exclusive examples of themes that could comprise this topic. Work of any kind (original in vivo, in vitro or in silico experimental, review, commentary or highlight) is encouraged.

• RNA-encoded alternative and non-canonical splicing events.
• Molecular functions and interactions of long non-coding and circular RNA.
• Broad catalytic and catalysis-augmenting function of RNA, such as in CRISPR-Cas9 and similar systems.
• Stability, repair and degradation mechanisms involving RNA:DNA and RNA:RNA hybrids (telomeres, R-loops, retrotransposons, micro RNAs).
• Mechanisms of RNA editing.
• Variations of decoding into amino acids guided by structure and sequence of RNA (messenger, transfer and ribosomal).
• Principles and evolution of the genetic code from the perspective of RNA structure and interactions.
• Mechanisms of messenger RNA recognition and conveying by the ribosomes, such as during any or all phases of mRNA translation into proteins.
• Structural and sequence contexts of RNA nucleotide modifications and their molecular functions.
• Mechanisms of specific molecular recognition mediated by RNA structures in naturally occurring or synthetic instances, such as in RNA viruses and RNA-based biosensors, or in single-molecule nano-devices.
• Mechanisms of therapeutically applicable coding and non-coding RNA function.

Topic Editor Kirk Jensen holds patents related to the Research Topic subject. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests.


Keywords: RNA, molecular interactions, ribozyme, catalytic RNA, RNA binding proteins, splicing, translation, transcription


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

28 August 2020 Abstract
26 February 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

28 August 2020 Abstract
26 February 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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