John F. Atkins

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John F. Atkins
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin (Ireland)
Known forRecoding, RNA World, Genetic Code
AwardsRoyal Irish Academy Gold Medal Award in 2007[1]
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular genetics, RNA biology
InstitutionsUniversity College Cork (Ireland), University of Utah, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Doctoral students
Other notable studentsPasha Baranov[3] (postdoc)

John Atkins is a research professor at University College Cork and a member of the Royal Irish Academy since 2003.[4][5] Atkins was the first Irish national to be elected as a member of the EMBO Organization.[6] In 2002 Science Foundation Ireland appointed Atkins as its first Director of Biotechnology.[6] Atkins is also an honorary Professor of Genetics at his alma mater Trinity College, Dublin.[7]


Shortly after Crick and Brenner established the triplet nature of genetic decoding John Atkins showed that mRNA molecules are not always translated in a triplet manner.[8] Since then Atkins focused on aspects of the genetic decoding that are in defiance of the standard genetic code – phenomena collectively described as Recoding.[9][10] Recoding challenges the generality of the genetic decoding and encompasses phenomena such as programmed ribosomal frameshifting that violates triplet character of the genetic readout. Proteinogenic amino acids that are not part of the genetic code, e.g. the 21st amino acid selenocysteine and the 22nd amino acid pyrrolysine are also subjects of Recoding.[11] John Atkins is an active proponent of the RNA World hypothesis and is an editor of The RNA World and RNA Worlds books.[12][13][14] His research activities include a search for modern protein-free RNA-based life forms.[15] In 2013 John Atkins organized installation of Charles Jencks sculpture ?What is Life? in Irish National Botanic Gardens.[16]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Coakley, Arthur (2016). Genetic decoding dynamics: from its exploitation to enhance or rescue gene expression to a search for relevance for early evolution (PhD thesis). University College Cork.
  3. ^ "A 'traffic jam' that puts the brakes on protein production". Irish Times.
  4. ^ "SFI attracts leading bioscientist from US - Innovation | - Ireland's Technology News Service". Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 1, 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Riyasaty S, Atkins JF. External suppression of a frameshift mutant in salmonella. J Mol Biol. 1968 Jun 28;34(3):541–57. PMID 4938557
  9. ^ Atkins, John F.; Gesteland, Raymond F.Recoding: Expansion of Decoding Rules Enriches Gene Expression. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-89381-5
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ John F. Atkins and Ray Gesteland (2002). "The 22nd Amino Acid". Science 296 (5572): 1409–1410. doi:10.1126/science.1073339. PMID 12029118
  12. ^ Gesteland, Raymond F.; Cech, Thomas; Atkins, John F. (2006). The RNA world: the nature of modern RNA suggests a prebiotic RNA world. Plainview, N.Y: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. ISBN 0-87969-739-3.
  13. ^ Atkins, John F.; Gesteland, Raymond F.; Cech, Thomas. (2011). RNA Worlds: From Life’s Origins to Diversity in Gene Regulation. Plainview, N.Y: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. ISBN 978-0-879699-46-8.
  14. ^ William Reville (2011-11-03). "The great mysteries of life are biochemical". Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  15. ^ Ledford H. Life-changing experiments: The biological Higgs. Nature 483, 528–530 (29 March 2012) doi:10.1038/483528a
  16. ^ "WHAT IS LIFE - DNA and Dublin Schrodinger James Watson, francis Crick, Maurice Wilkinson, Rosalind Franklin, Charles Jencks". Retrieved 2016-04-09.

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