The potential versatility of RNA catalysis

Timothy J. Wilson, David Lilley (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


It is commonly thought that in the early development of life on this planet RNA would have acted both as a store of genetic information and as a catalyst. While a number of RNA enzymes are known in contemporary cells, they are largely confined to phosphoryl transfer reactions, whereas an RNA based metabolism would have required a much greater chemical diversity of catalysis. Here we discuss how RNA might catalyze a wider variety of chemistries, and particularly how information gleaned from riboswitches could suggest how ribozymes might recruit coenzymes to expand their chemical range. We ask how we might seek such activities in modern biology. This article is categorized under: RNA-Based Catalysis > Miscellaneous RNA-Catalyzed Reactions Regulatory RNAs/RNAi/Riboswitches > Riboswitches RNA Structure and Dynamics > RNA Structure, Dynamics and Chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1651
Number of pages12
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: RNA
Issue number5
Early online date5 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021


  • coenzymes
  • riboswitches
  • ribozymes
  • the RNA world


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