Research Article

RNA-Catalyzed RNA Polymerization: Accurate and General RNA-Templated Primer Extension

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Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1319-1325
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060786

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The RNA world hypothesis regarding the early evolution of life relies on the premise that some RNA sequences can catalyze RNA replication. In support of this conjecture, we describe here an RNA molecule that catalyzes the type of polymerization needed for RNA replication. The ribozyme uses nucleoside triphosphates and the coding information of an RNA template to extend an RNA primer by the successive addition of up to 14 nucleotides—more than a complete turn of an RNA helix. Its polymerization activity is general in terms of the sequence and the length of the primer and template RNAs, provided that the 3′ terminus of the primer pairs with the template. Its polymerization is also quite accurate: when primers extended by 11 nucleotides were cloned and sequenced, 1088 of 1100 sequenced nucleotides matched the template.

  • * Present address: Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dbartel{at}

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