Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso


  • Michael P. RobertsonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1375



An abbreviation of “ribonucleic acid  enzyme.” Broadly defined as an  RNA molecule that catalyzes any specific chemical reaction even though it may not always satisfy the strict definition of “enzyme,” specifically with respect to multiple turnover and self-modification.


The concept of catalytically active RNA was first postulated in the late 1960s as part of an elegant scenario to describe the origin of life (Woese 1967; Crick 1968; Orgel 1968). Subsequently, the unexpected discovery in the early 1980s that ribozymes were, in fact, active and essential components of contemporary living organisms was a paradigm-shifting breakthrough. Tom Cech, studying intron splicing (an intron is a region of RNA that interrupts the protein-coding region of some messenger RNAs and which must be removed in a process called RNA splicing before the mRNA can be correctly translated into a protein) (Kruger et al. 1982), and Sidney Altman, investigating ribonuclease...


Catalysis RNA RNA world 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Crick FHC (1968) The origin of the genetic code. J Mol Biol 38(3):367–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ellington AD, Chen X, Robertson MP, Syrett A (2009) Evolutionary origins and directed evolution of RNA. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 41(2):254–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gilbert W (1986) The RNA world. Nature 319:618CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Guerrier-Takada C, Gardiner K, Marsh T, Pace N, Altman S (1983) The RNA moiety of ribonuclease P is the catalytic subunit of the enzyme. Cell 35(3):849–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Joyce GF (2004) Directed evolution of nucleic acid enzymes. Annu Rev Biochem 73:791–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kruger K, Grabowski PJ, Zaug AJ, Sands J, Gottschling DE, Cech TR (1982) Self-splicing RNA: autoexcision and autocyclization of the ribosomal RNA intervening sequence of Tetrahymena. Cell 31(1):147–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nissen P, Hansen J, Ban N, Moore PB, Steitz TA (2000) The structural basis of ribosome activity in peptide bond synthesis. Science 289(5481):920–930CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  8. Noller HF, Hoffarth V, Zimniak L (1992) Unusual resistance of peptidyl transferase to protein extraction procedures. Science 256(5062):1416–1419CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  9. Orgel LE (1968) Evolution of the genetic apparatus. J Mol Biol 38(3):381–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Woese C (1967) The genetic code: the molecular basis for genetic expression. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Biology MB42The Scripps Research InstituteLa JollaUSA