Author(s): Tanner NK
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Abstract Ribozymes, or catalytic RNAs, were discovered a little more than 15 years ago. They are found in the organelles of plants and lower eukaryotes, in amphibians, in prokaryotes, in bacteriophages, and in viroids and satellite viruses that infect plants. An example is also known of a ribozyme in hepatitis delta virus, a serious human pathogen. Additional ribozymes are bound to be found in the future, and it is tempting to regard the RNA component(s) of various ribonucleoprotein complexes as the catalytic engine, while the proteins serve as mere scaffolding--an unheard-of notion 15 years ago! In nature, ribozymes are involved in the processing of RNA precursors. However, all the characterized ribozymes have been converted, with some clever engineering, into RNA enzymes that can cleave or modify targeted RNAs (or even DNAs) without becoming altered themselves. While their success in vitro is unquestioned, ribozymes are increasingly used in vivo as valuable tools for studying and regulating gene expression. This review is intended as a brief introduction to the characteristics of the different identified ribozymes and their properties.
This article was published in FEMS Microbiol Rev
and referenced in Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access