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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Promiscuous Ribozymes and Their Proposed Role in Prebiotic Evolution.

  • Author(s): Janzen, Evan
  • Blanco, Celia
  • Peng, Huan
  • Kenchel, Josh
  • Chen, Irene A
  • et al.

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The ability of enzymes, including ribozymes, to catalyze side reactions is believed to be essential to the evolution of novel biochemical activities. It has been speculated that the earliest ribozymes, whose emergence marked the origin of life, were low in activity but high in promiscuity, and that these early ribozymes gave rise to specialized descendants with higher activity and specificity. Here, we review the concepts related to promiscuity and examine several cases of highly promiscuous ribozymes. We consider the evidence bearing on the question of whether de novo ribozymes would be quantitatively more promiscuous than later evolved ribozymes or protein enzymes. We suggest that while de novo ribozymes appear to be promiscuous in general, they are not obviously more promiscuous than more highly evolved or active sequences. Promiscuity is a trait whose value would depend on selective pressures, even during prebiotic evolution.

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