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

RNA Ligase

  • Burckhard SeeligEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_5316


RNA ligases are enzymes that catalyze formation of a covalent linkage between two oligoribonucleotides via a phosphodiester bond. In the context of the “RNA world” hypothesis, this linkage reaction would have been of great importance to generate longer, more complex RNA molecules from shorter oligonucleotides, which are easier to synthesize from mononucleotides.


Because no dedicated RNA ligase ribozymes had been found in nature, the SELEX technology was applied to isolate artificial ribozymes from a combinatorial library of random RNA. The identified ribozymes catalyze the bond formation of a 5′-triphosphorylated RNA to the 3′-hydroxyl group of a second RNA molecule forming the natural 3–5′ phosphodiester linkage (Bartel and Szostak 1993):
$$ 5^{\prime }-{\mathrm{RNA}}_{(1)}-\mathrm{O}\mathrm{H}+5^{\prime }-\mathrm{P}\mathrm{P}\mathrm{P}-{\mathrm{RNA}}_{(2)}\to 5^{\prime }-{\mathrm{RNA}}_{(1)}-\mathrm{P}-{\mathrm{RNA}}_{(2)}+\mathrm{P}\mathrm{P} $$


RNA world SELEX Ribozyme Artificial protein enzyme 
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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 261:1411–1418CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Chao F-A et al (2013) Structure and dynamics of a primordial catalytic fold generated by in vitro evolution. Nat Chem Biol 9:81–83CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  3. Ellington AD (2009) Back to the future of nucleic acid self-amplification. Nat Chem Biol 5:200–201MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle 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 292:1319–1325CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Purtha WE, Coppins RL, Smalley MK, Silverman SK (2005) General deoxyribozyme-catalyzed synthesis of native 3′–5′ RNA linkages. J Am Chem Soc 127:13124–13125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Robertson MP, Joyce GF (2014) Highly efficient self-replicating RNA enzymes. Chem Biol 21:238–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Seelig B, Szostak JW (2007) Selection and evolution of enzymes from a partially randomized non-catalytic scaffold. Nature 448:828–831CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics & BioTechnology InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA