Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 551–558 | Cite as

Self-Incorporation of coenzymes by ribozymes

  • Ronald R. Breaker
  • Gerald F. Joyce


RNA molecules that are assembled from the four standard nucleotides contain a limited number of chemical functional groups, a characteristic that is generally thought to restrict the potential for catalysis by ribozymes. Although polypeptides carry a wider range of functional groups, many contemporary protein-based enzymes employ coenzymes to augment their capabilities. The coenzymes possess additional chemical moieties that can participate directly in catalysis and thereby enhance catalytic function. In this work, we demonstrate a mechanism by which ribozymes can supplement their limited repertoire of functional groups through RNA-catalyzed incorporation of various coenzymes and coenzyme analogues. The group I ribozyme of Tetrahymena thermophila normally mediates a phosphoester transfer reaction that results in the covalent attachment of guanosine to the ribozyme. Here, a shortened version of the ribozyme is shown to catalyze the self-incorporation of coenzymes and coenzyme analogues, such as NAD+ and dephosphorylated CoA-SH. Similar ribozyme activities may have played an important role in the “RNA world,” when RNA enzymes are thought to have maintained a complex metabolism in the absence of proteins and would have benefited from the inclusion of additional functional groups.

Key words

Terahymena thermophila Group I intron Self-splicing RNA RNA world Nicotinamide Coenzyme A 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald R. Breaker
    • 1
  • Gerald F. Joyce
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Chemistry and Molecular BiologyThe Scripps Research InstituteLa JollaUSA

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