Molecular crowding and RNA catalysis
RNA enzymes or ribozymes catalyze some of the most important reactions in biology and are thought to have played a central role in the origin and evolution of life on earth. Catalytic function in RNA has evolved in crowded cellular environments that are different from dilute solutions in which most in vitro assays are performed. The presence of molecules such as amino acids, polypeptides, alcohols, and sugars in the cell introduces forces that modify the kinetics and thermodynamics of ribozyme-catalyzed reactions. Synthetic molecules are routinely used in in vitro studies to better approximate the properties of biomolecules under in vivo conditions. This review discusses the various forces that operate within simulated crowded solutions in the context of RNA structure, folding, and catalysis. It also explores ideas about how crowding could have been beneficial to the evolution of functional RNAs and the development of primitive cellular systems in a prebiotic milieu.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Catalysis & biocatalysis in OBC