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


  • William G. ScottEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1749



Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is one of two principal types of nucleic acid found in all cellular life. RNA consists of a polymer of ribonucleoside phosphates, each unit of which, in turn, is comprised of a  pyrimidine base or  purine base, a  ribose sugar, and a  phosphate. RNAs encode genetic information (e.g., RNA viruses), serve as intermediates in gene transcription (e.g., mRNA), and also play structural, regulatory, and catalytic (e.g.,  ribosome) roles in cellular biology.


Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

Francis Crick proposed a simple scheme, shown below, that he entitled “The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology” to serve as a unifying axiom for the emerging field of molecular biology: \( \mathrm{D}\mathrm{N}\mathrm{A}\to \mathrm{R}\mathrm{N}\mathrm{A}\to \mathrm{Protein} \)


Catalytic RNA Messenger RNA Nucleic acid Ribosomal RNA Ribozymes RNA world RNAi Transfer RNA 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Bartel DP, Szostak JW (1993) Isolation of new ribozymes from a large pool of random sequences. Science 261:1411CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Crick FHC (1968) The origin of the genetic code. J Mol Biol 38:367–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gilbert W (1986) Origin of life, the RNA world. Nature 319:618CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Johnston WK, Unrau PJ, Lawrence MS, Glasner ME, Bartel DP (2001) RNA-catalyzed RNA- polymerization: accurate and general RNA-templated primer extension. Science 292:1319CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Orgel LE (1968) Evolution of the genetic apparatus. J Mol Biol 38:381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Robertson MP, Scott WG (2007) The structural basis of ribozyme-catalyzed RNA assembly. Science 315:1549CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  7. Rogers J, Joyce GF (2001) The effect of cytidine on the structure and function of an RNA ligase ribozyme. RNA 7:395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Woese C (1967) The genetic code: the molecular basis for genetic expression. Harper & Row, New York, pp 179–195Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The Center for the Molecular Biology of RNAUniversity of California at Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA