Rna catalysis and the origin of life

  • Norman R. Pace
  • Terry L. Marsh


Until the discovery of catalytic RNAs, first the self-splicing intron inTetrahymena and then the bacterial RNAse P, cellular enzymes had always seemed to be protein in nature. The recognition that RNA can catalytically make and break phosphodiester bonds simplifies some of the assumptions required of a rudimentary self-replicating entity. Available information on the chemistry of RNA-catalyzed reactions is reviewed, with particular attention to self-splicing introns and tRNA processing by RNase P. An explicit model for a self-replicating RNA is described. The model postulates a nucleotide binding/polymerization site in the RNA, and takes advantage of intrinsic fluidity in RNA higher order structure to dissociate parent and progeny complementary strands.


Enzyme Nucleotide Organic Chemistry Catalysis Geochemistry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abelson, J.: 1979,Ann. Rev. Biochem. 48, 1035.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Altman, J., Bowman, E. J., Garber, R. L., Kole, R., Koski, R. A., and Stark, B. C.: 1980, in D. Soll, J. N. Abelson and P. R. Schimmel (eds.),Transfer RNA: Biological Aspects, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, pp. 71–97.Google Scholar
  3. Baer, M. and Altman, S.: 1985,Science 228, 999.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Balasingham, K. and Ferdinand, W.: 1970,Biochem. J. 118, 15.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltimore, D.: 1985,Cell 40, 481.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bass, B. L. and Cech, T. R.: 1984,Nature 308, 820.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Boeke, J. D., Garfinkle, D. J., Styles, C. A., and Fink, G. R.: 1985,Cell 40, 491.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bothwell, A. L. M., Garber, R. L., and Altman, S.: 1976,J. Biol. Chem. 251, 7709.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cech, T. R.: 1985,Int. Rev. Cytol. 93, 3.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cech, T. R. and Rio, D. C.: 1979,Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 76, 5051.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Cech, T. R., Zaug, A. J., and Grabowski, P. J.: 1981,Cell 27, 487.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cech, T. R., Tanner, N. K., Tinoco, I., Weir, B. R., Zuker, M., and Perlman, P. S.: 1983,Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80, 3903.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Crawford, I. P. and Stauffer, G. V.: 1980,Ann. Rev. Biochem. 49, 163.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Crick, F. H. C.: 1968,J. Mol. Biol. 38, 367.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Doersen, C.-T., Guerrier-Takada, C., Altman, S., and Attardi, G.: 1985,J. Biol. Chem. 260, 5942.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Doolittle, W. F. and Sapienza, C.: 1980,Nature 284, 601.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gardiner, K. and Pace, N. R.: 1980,J. Biol. Chem. 255, 7507.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gardiner, K. J., Marsh, T. L., and Pace, N. R.: 1985,J. Biol. Chem. 260, 5415.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Garriga, G. and Lambowitz, A. M.: 1984,Cell 39, 631.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Guerrier-Takada, C., Gardiner, K., Marsh, T., Pace, N., and Altman, S.: 1983,Cell 35, 849.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Guerrier-Takada, C. and Altman, S.: 1984,Science 223, 285.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Guerier-Takada, C., McClain, W., and Altman, S.: 1984,Cell 38, 219.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Guthrie, and Atchison, R.: 1980, in D. Soll, J. N. Abelson and P. R. Schimmel (eds.),Transfer RNA: Biological aspects, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, pp. 83–97.Google Scholar
  24. Huang, D.-D., Wang, W.-Y., Gough, S. P., and Kannangara, C. G.: 1984,Science 225, 1482.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Inoue, T. and Cech, T. R.: 1985,Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 83, 648.Google Scholar
  26. Inoue, T. and Orgel, L. E.: 1983,Science 219, 859.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Kan., M. C. and Gall, J. G.: 1982,Nucl. Acids Res. 10, 2809.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kline, L., Nishikawa, S., and Soll, D.: 1981,J. Biol. Chem. 256, 5058.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kramer, F. R. and Mills, D. R.: 1981,Nucl. Acids Res. 9, 5109.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kruger, K., Grabowski, P. J., Zaug, A. J., Sands, J., Gottschling, D. E., and Cech, T. R.: 1982,Cell 31, 147.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Marsh, T. L. and Pace, N. R.: 1985,Science 229, 79.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Mazzara, G. P. and McClain, W. H.: 1980, in D. Soll, J. N. Abelson and P. R. Schimmel (eds.),Transfer RNA: Biological Aspects, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, pp. 3–27.Google Scholar
  33. Michel, F. and Dujon, B.: 1983,EMBO J. 2, 33.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller, D. L. and Martin, N. C.: 1983,Cell 34, 911.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Orgel, L. E.: 1968,J. Mol. Biol. 38, 381.Google Scholar
  36. Pace, N. R.: 1984, in D. Apirion (ed.),Processing of RNA, CRC Press, pp. 2–34.Google Scholar
  37. Padgett, R. A., Grabowski, P. J., Konarska, M. M., and Sharp, P. A.: 1985,Trends Biochem. Sci. 10, 154.Google Scholar
  38. Peebles, C. L., Mecklenburg, K. L., Perlman, P. S., Tabor, J. H., and Cheng, H. L.: 1985,Cell, in press.Google Scholar
  39. Price, J. V. and Cech, T. R.: 1985,Science 228, 719.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Reed, R. E., Baer, M. F., Guerrier-Takada, C., Donis-Keller, H., and Altman, S.: 1982,Cell 30, 627.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Saenger, W.: 1984,Principles of Nucleic Acid Structure, Springer Verlag, New York, 556 pp.Google Scholar
  42. Sakamoto, K., Kimura, N., Nagawa, F., and Shimura, Y.: 1983,Nucl. Acids Res. 11, 8237.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Schwarz, A. W. and Orgel, L. E.: 1985,Science 228, 585.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Snapka, R. M. and Sutherland, B. M.: 1980,Biochemistry 19, 4201.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Stark, B. C., Kole, R., Bowman, E. J., and Altman, S.: 1978,Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 75, 3717.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Sullivan, F. X. and Cech, T. R.: 1985,Cell 42, 639.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Vold, B. S.: 1985,Microbiol. Rev. 49, 71.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Von Hipple, P. and Schleich, T.: 1969,Accts. Chem. Res. 2, 257.Google Scholar
  49. Waring, R. B. and Davies, R. W.: 1984,Gene 28, 277.Google Scholar
  50. Watson, N., Gurevitz, M., Ford, J., and Apirion, D.: 1984,J. Mol. Biol. 172, 30.Google Scholar
  51. Wild, M. A. and Gall, J. G.: 1979,Cell 16, 565.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Woese, C. R.: 1967,The Genetic Code, Harper and Row, New York, 200 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Zaug, A. J. and Cech, T. R.: 1980,Cell 19, 331.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Zaug, A. J. and Cech, T. R.: 1985,Science 229, 1060.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Zaug, A. J., Kent, J. R., and Cech, T. R.: 1984,Science 224, 574.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Zaug, A. J., Kent, J. R., and Cech, T. R.: 1985,Biochemistry 24, 6211.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman R. Pace
    • 1
  • Terry L. Marsh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations