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J Biosci. 2011 Dec;36(5):921-8.

Ribosome evolution: emergence of peptide synthesis machinery.

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Department of Biological Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science, 2641 Yamazaki, Noda, Chiba 278-8510 Japan.


Proteins, the main players in current biological systems, are produced on ribosomes by sequential amide bond (peptide bond) formations between amino-acid-bearing tRNAs. The ribosome is an exquisite super-complex of RNA-proteins, containing more than 50 proteins and at least 3 kinds of RNAs. The combination of a variety of side chains of amino acids (typically 20 kinds with some exceptions) confers proteins with extraordinary structure and functions. The origin of peptide bond formation and the ribosome is crucial to the understanding of life itself. In this article, a possible evolutionary pathway to peptide bond formation machinery (proto-ribosome) will be discussed, with a special focus on the RNA minihelix (primordial form of modern tRNA) as a starting molecule. Combining the present data with recent experimental data, we can infer that the peptidyl transferase center (PTC) evolved from a primitive system in the RNA world comprising tRNA-like molecules formed by duplication of minihelix-like small RNA.

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