- The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) binds the noncoding RNA Gas5 via its DNA-binding domain (DBD) with functional implications in pro-apoptosis signaling. Here, we report a comprehensive in vitro binding study where we have determined that GR-DBD is a robust structure-specific RNA-binding domain. GR-DBD binds to a diverse range of RNA hairpin motifs, both synthetic and biologically derived, with apparent mid-nanomolar affinity while discriminating against uniform dsRNA. As opposed to dimeric recognition of dsDNA, GR-DBD binds to RNA as a monomer and confers high affinity primarily through electrostatic contacts. GR-DBD adopts a discrete RNA-bound state, as assessed by NMR, distinct from both free and DNA-bound. NMR and alanine mutagenesis suggest a heightened involvement of the C-terminal α-helix of the GR-DBD in RNA-binding. RNA competes for binding with dsDNA and occurs in a similar affinity range as dimer binding to the canonical DNA element. Given the prevalence of RNA hairpins within the transcriptome, our findings strongly suggest that many RNAs have potential to impact GR biology.