Lower temperature optimum of a smaller, fragmented triphosphorylation ribozyme†
The RNA world hypothesis describes a stage in the early evolution of life in which catalytic RNAs mediated the replication of RNA world organisms. One challenge to this hypothesis is that most existing ribozymes are much longer than what may be expected to originate from prebiotically plausible methods, or from the polymerization by currently existing polymerase ribozymes. We previously developed a 96-nucleotide long ribozyme, which generates a chemically activated 5′-phosphate (a 5′-triphosphate) from a prebiotically plausible molecule, trimetaphosphate, and an RNA 5′-hydroxyl group. Analogous ribozymes may have been important in the RNA world to access an energy source for the earliest life forms. Here we reduce the length of this ribozyme by fragmenting the ribozyme into multiple RNA strands, and by successively removing its longest double strand. The resulting ribozyme is composed of RNA fragments with none longer than 34 nucleotides. The temperature optimum was ∼20 °C, compared to ∼40 °C for the parent ribozyme. This shift in temperature dependence may be a more general phenomenon for fragmented ribozymes, and may have helped RNA world organisms to emerge at low temperature.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Prebiotic chemistry and the molecular origins of life