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 Replicase Ribozyme

  • Mark A. DitzlerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_5319


An RNA replicase ribozyme is an RNA enzyme (ribozyme) that catalyzes the replication of RNA sequences. RNA replicase ribozymes are a central feature of RNA world theories of the origin of life.


The term RNA replicase was introduced to describe protein enzymes that polymerize RNA in an RNA-dependent manner (Haruna et al. 1963). These protein enzymes replicate the genomes of RNA viruses through the template-directed polymerization of mononucleotides. It was not until decades later that ribozymes capable of similar polymerization reactions and RNA replication were identified through directed evolution in vitro (Johnston et al. 2001; Lincoln and Joyce 2009).


The replication of information-containing molecules by a replicase provides a means of establishing heritability. The emergence of such a replicase would therefore satisfy one of the fundamental requirements of life. RNA’s dual biological role of both catalyzing chemical reactions and storing genetic...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA