A ribozyme (from ribonucleic acid enzyme, also called RNA enzyme or catalytic RNA) is an RNA molecule that catalyzes a chemical reaction. Many natural ribozymes catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own phosphodiester bonds, or the hydrolysis of bonds in other RNAs, but they have also been found to catalyze the aminotransferase activity of the ribosome.
Investigators studying the origin of life have produced ribozymes in the laboratory that are capable of catalyzing their own synthesis under very specific conditions, such as an RNA polymerase ribozyme. Mutagenesis and selection has been performed resulting in isolation of improved variants of the "Round-18" polymerase ribozyme from 2001. "B6.61" is able to add up to 20 nucleotides to a primer template in 24 hours, until it decomposes by hydrolysis of its phosphodiester bonds.
Some ribozymes may play an important role as therapeutic agents, as enzymes which tailor defined RNA sequences, as biosensors, and for applications in functional genomics and gene discovery.
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