A ribozyme (from ribonucleic acid enzyme, also called RNA enzyme or catalytic RNA) is an RNA molecule that catalyzes a chemical reaction. Many natural ribozymes catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own phosphodiester bonds, or the hydrolysis of bonds in other RNAs, but they have also been found to catalyze the aminotransferase activity of the ribosome.

Investigators studying the origin of life have produced ribozymes in the laboratory that are capable of catalyzing their own synthesis under very specific conditions, such as an RNA polymerase ribozyme. [cite journal |author=Johnston W, Unrau P, Lawrence M, Glasner M, Bartel D |title=RNA-catalyzed RNA polymerization: accurate and general RNA-templated primer extension |journal=Science |volume=292 |issue=5520 |pages=1319–25 |year=2001 |url=http://web.wi.mit.edu/bartel/pub/publication_reprints/Johnston_Science01.pdf |pmid=11358999 |doi=10.1126/science.1060786] Mutagenesis and selection has been performed resulting in isolation of improved variants of the "Round-18" polymerase ribozyme from 2001. "B6.61" is able to add up to 20 nucleotides to a primer template in 24 hours, until it decomposes by hydrolysis of its phosphodiester bonds. [cite journal |author=Zaher HS, Unrau P |title=Selection of an improved RNA polymerase ribozyme with superior extension and fidelity |journal=RNA |volume=13 |issue=7 |pages=1017–26 |year=2007 |url=http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=PubMed&cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=17586759 |pmid=17586759 |doi=10.1261/rna.548807]

Some ribozymes may play an important role as therapeutic agents, as enzymes which tailor defined RNA sequences, as biosensors, and for applications in functional genomics and gene discovery.cite book |chapterurl=http://www.horizonpress.com/rnareg|author= Hean J and Weinberg MS|year=2008|chapter=The Hammerhead Ribozyme Revisited: New Biological Insights for the Development of Therapeutic Agents and for Reverse Genomics Applications|title=RNA and the Regulation of Gene Expression: A Hidden Layer of Complexity|publisher=Caister Academic Press|id= [http://www.horizonpress.com/rnareg ISBN 978-1-904455-25-7] ]


Before the discovery of ribozymes, enzymes, which are defined as catalytic proteins, [ [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enzyme Enzyme definition] Dictionary.com Accessed 6 April 2007] were the only known biological catalysts. In 1967, Carl Woese, Francis Crick, and Leslie Orgel were the first to suggest that RNA could act as a catalyst. This idea was based upon the discovery that RNA can form complex secondary structures. [Carl Woese, The Genetic Code (New York: Harper and Row, 1967).] The first ribozymes were discovered in the 1980s by Thomas R. Cech, who was studying RNA splicing in the ciliated protozoan "Tetrahymena thermophila" and Sidney Altman, who was working on the bacterial RNase P complex. These ribozymes were found in the intron of an RNA transcript, which removed itself from the transcript, as well as in the RNA component of the RNase P complex, which is involved in the maturation of pre-tRNAs. In 1989, Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their "discovery of catalytic properties of RNA." [ [http://nobelprize.org/chemistry/laureates/1989/ The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1989] was awarded to Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman "for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA".] The term "ribozyme" was first introduced by Kelly Kruger "et al." in 1982 in a paper published in "Cell".

It had been a firmly established belief in biology that catalysis was reserved for proteins. In retrospect, catalytic RNA makes a lot of sense. This is based on the old question regarding the origin of life: Which comes first, enzymes that do the work of the cell or nucleic acids that carry the information required to produce the enzymes? Nucleic acids as catalysts circumvents this problem.cite web | last =RNA Catalysis | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1984OrLi...14..291V | work = | publisher = | date =Jan 2007 | url=http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1984OrLi...14..291V | format = | doi = | accessdate =2007-08-04 ]

In the 1970s Thomas Cech, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, was studying the excision of introns in a ribosomal RNA gene in "Tetrahymena thermophila". While trying to purify the enzyme responsible for splicing reaction, he found that intron could be spliced out in the absence of any added cell extract. Much as they tried, Cech and his colleagues could not identify any protein associated with the splicing reaction. After much work, Cech proposed that the intron sequence portion of the RNA could break and reform phosphodiester bonds. At about the same time, Sidney Altman, who is a Professor at Yale University, was studying the way tRNA molecules are processed in the cell when he and his colleagues isolated an enzyme called RNase-P, which is responsible for conversion of a precursor tRNA into the active tRNA. Much to their surprise, they found that RNase-P contained RNA in addition to protein and that RNA was an essential component of the active enzyme. This was such a foreign idea that they had difficulty publishing their findings. The following year, Altman demonstrated that RNA can act as a catalyst by showing that the RNase-P RNA submit could catalyze the cleavage of precursor tRNA into active tRNA in the absence of any protein component.

Since Cech's and Altman's discovery, other investigators have discovered other examples of self-cleaving RNA or catalytic RNA molecules. Many ribozymes have either a hairpin – or hammerhead – shaped active center and a unique secondary structure that allows them to cleave other RNA molecules at specific sequences. It is now possible to make ribozymes that will specifically cleave any RNA molecule. These RNA catalysts may have pharmaceutical applications. For example, a ribozyme has been designed to cleave the RNA of HIV. If such a ribozyme was made by a cell, all incoming virus particles would have their RNA genome cleaved by the ribozyme, which would prevent infection.


Although most ribozymes are quite rare in the cell, their roles are sometimes essential to life. For example, the functional part of the ribosome, the molecular machine that translates RNA into proteins, is fundamentally a ribozyme. Ribozymes often have divalent metal ions such as Mg2+ as cofactors.

RNA can also act as a hereditary molecule, which encouraged Walter Gilbert to propose that in the past, the cell used RNA as both the genetic material and the structural and catalytic molecule, rather than dividing these functions between DNA and protein as they are today. This hypothesis became known as the "RNA world hypothesis" of the origin of life.

If ribozymes were the first molecular machines used by early life, then today's remaining ribozymes -- such as the ribosome machinery -- could be considered living fossils of a life based primarily on nucleic acids.

A recent test-tube study of prion folding suggests that an RNA may catalyze the pathological protein conformation in the manner of a chaperone enzyme. ["Prion protein conversion in vitro" by S. Supattapone (2004) in "Journal of Molecular Medicine" Volume 82, pages 348-356. Entrez Pubmed|15014886]

Known ribozymes

Naturally occurring ribozymes include:
* Peptidyl transferase 23S rRNA
* RNase P
* Group I and Group II introns
* GIR1 branching ribozymecite journal |author=Nielsen H, Westhof E, Johansen S |title=An mRNA is capped by a 2', 5' lariat catalyzed by a group I-like ribozyme |journal=Science |volume=309 |issue=5740 |pages=1584–7 |year=2005 |pmid=16141078 |doi=10.1126/science.1113645]
* Leadzyme - Although initially created "in vitro", natural examples have been found
* Hairpin ribozyme
* Hammerhead ribozyme
* HDV ribozyme
* Mammalian CPEB3 ribozyme
* VS ribozyme
* "glmS" ribozyme
* CoTC ribozyme

Artificial ribozymes

Since the discovery of ribozymes that exist in living organisms, there has been interest in the study of new synthetic ribozymes made in the laboratory. For example, artificially-produced self-cleaving RNAs that have good enzymatic activity have been produced. Tang and Breaker cite journal | author= Jin Tang and Ronald R. Breaker | title=Structural diversity of self-cleaving ribozymes | journal=Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | year=1997 | volume=97 | issue=11 | pages= 5784–5789 | url=http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/97/11/5784 | pmid=10823936 | doi=10.1073/pnas.97.11.5784] isolated self-cleaving RNAs by in vitro selection of RNAs originating from random-sequence RNAs. Some of the synthetic ribozymes that were produced had novel structures, while some were similar to the naturally occurring hammerhead ribozyme.

The techniques used to discover artificial ribozymes involve Darwinian evolution. This approach takes advantage of RNA's dual nature as both a catalyst and an informational polymer, making it easy for an investigator to produce vast populations of RNA catalysts using polymerase enzymes. The ribozymes are mutated by reverse transcribing them with reverse transcriptase into various cDNA and amplified with mutagenic PCR. The selection parameters in these experiments often differ. One approach for selecting a ligase ribozyme involves using biotin tags, which are covalently linked to the substrate. If a molecule possesses the desired ligase activity, a streptavidin matrix can be used to recover the active molecules.

ee also

*Spiegelman Monster
*RNA world hypothesis
*Peptide nucleic acid
*Nucleic acid analogues
*PAH world hypothesis


External links

* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11441810&dopt=Abstract Ribozyme structures and mechanisms]
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15189159&query_hl=1 Directed evolution of nucleic acid enzymes.]
* [http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/38/13750 De novo synthesis and development of an RNA enzyme]
* [http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1984OrLi...14..291V RNA catalysis evolutionary insight]
* [http://www.pulasthi.info/2007/08/not-all-enzymatic-reactions-are.html RNA catalysis]

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  • ribozyme — [ ribozim ] n. m. • 1982; de ribo et (en)zyme ♦ Biochim. Molécule d A. R. N. capable de couper, coller, assembler d autres morceaux d A. R. N. selon un mode de fonctionnement typiquement enzymatique. ● ribozyme nom masculin (de ribosome et… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ribozyme — [rī′bə zīm΄] n. a molecule of RNA that acts as an enzyme, used in genetic research and gene therapy …   English World dictionary

  • Ribozyme — Le ribozyme en tête de marteau présent dans le génome de certains viroïdes de plantes Les ribozymes sont des ARN qui possèdent la propriété de catalyser une réaction chimique spécifique. Le terme « ribozyme » est un mot valise formé à… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ribozyme — Modell eines Hammerhead Ribozyms Ribozyme (von Ribonucleinsäure (RNA) und Enzym) sind katalytisch aktive RNA Moleküle, die wie Enzyme chemische Reaktionen katalysieren. Für diese Entdeckung wurden Sidney Altman und Thomas R. Cech 1989 mit dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ribozyme — ribozimas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Ribonukleorūgštis, specifiškai skaidanti fosfodiesterinius ryšius RNR molekulėje. atitikmenys: angl. ribozyme rus. рибозим …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • ribozyme — noun Etymology: ribonucleic acid + enzyme Date: 1982 a molecule of RNA that functions as an enzyme (as by catalyzing the cleavage of other RNA molecules) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ribozyme — RNA with catalytic capacity an enzyme made of nucleic acid not protein. Of particular interest because of the implications for self replicating systems in the earliest stages of the evolution of (terrestrial) life …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • ribozyme — ribozymal, adj. /ruy beuh zuym /, n. a segment of RNA that can act as a catalyst. [1985 90; RIBO(SOME) + (EN)ZYME] * * * …   Universalium

  • ribozyme — noun a fragment of RNA that can act as an enzyme …   Wiktionary

  • Ribozyme — An RNA molecule that can catalyze its own chemical reactions. * * * A nonprotein biocatalyst; several cleave precursors of tRNA to yield functional tRNAs; others act on rRNA; plays a key role in intron splicing events. SYN: organic catalyst (1),… …   Medical dictionary

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