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Access to the article is free, however registration and sign-in are required. Insights into the mechanisms by which ribonucleic acid enzymes catalyze reactions may help us to understand how life progressed from an early RNA world. Ribozymes are RNA molecules that catalyze reactions on themselves or other molecules; they are enzymes that happen to be made of RNA, not amino acids (1). They may have played a key role in the formation of life on our planet, because they do not require the complex translation apparatus needed to form protein enzymes. Although the list of natural ribozymes is short, several ribozymes perform essential reactions. For example, the ribosome translates the genetic code into proteins, and ribonuclease P (RNase P) processes transfer RNA into its mature form in all kingdoms of life. Perhaps these are living molecular fossils from an "RNA world" that is postulated to have existed billions of years ago when life first began. So, just how do ribozymes work, and do their mechanisms provide clues to their evolutionary origins?
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