Send to

Choose Destination
Astrobiology. 2012 Jan;12(1):57-60. doi: 10.1089/ast.2011.0692. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

An exit cavity was crucial to the polymerase activity of the early ribosome.

Author information

Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA.


The emergence of an RNA entity capable of synthesizing peptides was a key prebiotic development. It is hypothesized that a precursor of the modern ribosomal exit tunnel was associated with this RNA entity (e.g., "protoribosome" or "bonding entity") from the earliest time and played an essential role. Various compounds that can bind and activate amino acids, including extremely short RNA chains carrying amino acids, and possibly di- or tripeptides, would have associated with the internal cavity of the protoribosome. This cavity hosts the site for peptide bond formation and adjacent to it a relatively elongated feature that could have evolved to the modern ribosomal exit tunnel, as it is wide enough to allow passage of an oligopeptide. When two of the compounds carrying amino acids or di- or tripeptides (to which we refer, for simplicity, as small aminoacylated RNAs) were in proximity within the heart of the protoribosome, a peptide bond could form spontaneously. The growing peptide would enter the nearby cavity and would not disrupt the attachment of the substrates to the protoribosome or interfere with the subsequent attachment of additional small aminoacylated RNAs. Additionally, the presence of the peptide in the cavity would increase the lifetime of the oligopeptide in the protoribosome. Thus, subsequent addition of another amino acid would be more likely than detachment from the protoribosome, and synthesis could continue. The early ability to synthesize peptides may have resulted in an abbreviated RNA World.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center