RNA as an RNA polymerase: net elongation of an RNA primer catalyzed by the Tetrahymena ribozyme

Science  18 Mar 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4846, pp. 1412-1416
DOI: 10.1126/science.2450400


A catalytic RNA (ribozyme) derived from an intervening sequence (IVS) RNA of Tetrahymena thermophila will catalyze an RNA polymerization reaction in which pentacytidylic acid (C5) is extended by the successive addition of mononucleotides derived from a guanylyl-(3',5')-nucleotide (GpN). Cytidines or uridines are added to C5 to generate chain lengths of 10 to 11 nucleotides, with longer products being generated at greatly reduced efficiency. The reaction is analogous to that catalyzed by a replicase with C5 acting as the primer, GpNs as the nucleoside triphosphates, and a sequence in the ribozyme providing a template. The demonstration that an RNA enzyme can catalyze net elongation of an RNA primer supports theories of prebiotic RNA self-replication.