The ability of RNA to recognize small substrates and promote difficult chemistry is poorly understood but is required to provide a solid foundation for the RNA world hypothesis.
Specifically, we have been examining the ability of RNA to replicate itself, without the help of protein. Previous work has focused on this problem using in vitro selection (where ribozymes are isolated from large pools of random sequences by iterative rounds of selection and amplification). Dr. Unrau's important initial work involved selecting and evolving ribozymes able to form a nucleotide from a free pyrimidine base and a tethered form of activated ribose(PMID: 9751052). This ability to demonstrate RNA-mediated nucleotide synthesis provides strong support for the prior existence an RNA world (by suggesting a source of nucleotides for polymerization). These nucleotide monomers would have been the basic substrates for an RNA-templated RNA polymerase responsible for the replication of a primitive ribo-organism's genome.
For more details, visit our research lab website.
- Alexis Autour, Sunny C. Y. Jeng, Adam D. Cawte, Amir Abdolahzadeh, Angela Galli, Shanker S.S. Panchapakesan, David Rueda, Michael Ryckelynck Peter J. Unrau. Fluorogenic RNA Mango aptamers for imaging small non-coding RNAs in mammalian cells. Nature Communications, 2018.
- Robert J Trachman III, Natalia ADemeshkina, Matthew W L Lau, Shanker Shyam SPanchapakesan, Sunny C Y Jeng, Peter J Unrau & Adrian RFerré-D’Amaré*. Structural basis for high-affinity fluorophore binding and activation by RNA Mango, Nature Chemical Biology, 2017.
- Elena V. Dolgosheina and Peter J. Unrau. Fluorophore-binding RNA aptamers and their applications, WIREs RNA, 2016.