RNA is a fascinating molecule. Its array of different properties is highlighted by our knowledge of the ribosome. RNA can have structural properties; for example, rRNA is the core of the ribosome. RNA can bind proteins; for example, rRNA–ribosomal protein interactions are used to build the protein translation machinery. Finally, RNA can display enzymatic catalysis. In the ribosome during translation, non-coding RNA carries out decoding (tRNA) and amino acid polymerization (rRNA). If this is not fascinating enough, the last decade or so has seen a considerable reassessment of the core of Francis Crick's ‘central dogma of molecular biology’ that states that RNA molecules (rRNAs, tRNAs and mRNAs) serve to drive protein synthesis, decode mRNAs or act as a templates encoding protein. Much of the upheaval in our understanding of RNA biology has come from deep mining of the human transcriptome by RNA sequencing (RNAseq) by next generation sequencing techniques. One of the most startling revelations from the wealth of new data provided by the ‘-omics’ revolution is that over 80% of the human genome encodes RNA, whereas only up to 2% encodes proteins. In other words, our genomes are largely RNA-coding. The discovery of the plethora of non-coding RNAs in our genomes has revolutionized molecular biology. These RNAs do not encode protein and, unlike rRNAs or tRNAs, most are not intimately linked to protein translation. In this edition of The Biochemist, we revisit recent advances in RNA research to reveal the broad scope of this hot topic in today's biochemistry and to spotlight some new areas of RNA research.

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