Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 82, Issue 2–3, pp 81–92 | Cite as

Ligation of RNA Oligomers by the Schistosoma mansoni Hammerhead Ribozyme in Frozen Solution

  • Lively Lie
  • Shweta Biliya
  • Fredrik Vannberg
  • Roger M. Wartell
Original Article


The interstitial liquid phase within frozen aqueous solutions is an environment that minimizes RNA degradation and facilitates reactions that may have relevance to the RNA World hypothesis. Previous work has shown that frozen solutions support condensation of activated nucleotides into RNA oligomers, RNA ligation by the hairpin ribozyme, and RNA synthesis by a RNA polymerase ribozyme. In the current study, we examined the activity of a hammerhead ribozyme (HHR) in frozen solution. The Schistosoma mansoni hammerhead ribozyme, which predominantly cleaves RNA, can ligate its cleaved products (P1 and P2) with yields up to ~23 % in single turnover experiments at 25 °C in the presence of Mg2+. Our studies show that this HHR ligates RNA oligomers in frozen solution in the absence of divalent cations. Citrate and other anions that exhibit strong ion-water affinity enhanced ligation. Yields up to 43 % were observed in one freeze–thaw cycle and a maximum of 60 % was obtained after several freeze–thaw cycles using wild-type P1 and P2. Truncated and mutated P1 substrates were ligated to P2 with yields of 14–24 % in one freeze–thaw cycle. A pool of P2 substrates with mixtures of all four bases at five positions were ligated with P1 in frozen solution. High-throughput sequencing indicated that 70 of the 1024 possible P2 sequences were represented in ligated products at 1000 or more read counts per million reads. The results indicate that the HHR can ligate a range of short RNA oligomers into an ensemble of diverse sequences in ice.


Ribozyme RNA ligation RNA world Dehydration 



We thank Rachel Hutto for assistance with ligation experiments and Prof. Klemens Hertel for advice on the carbodiimide reaction. We gratefully acknowledge support during the course of this study from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and a Dept. of Education GAANN Fellowship awarded to L. Lie.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

239_2016_9729_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1256 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and BioscienceGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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