Nature chemistry

A thiamin-utilizing ribozyme decarboxylates a pyruvate-like substrate.

PMID 24153377


Vitamins are hypothesized to be relics of an RNA world, and were probably participants in RNA-mediated primordial metabolism. If catalytic RNAs, or ribozymes, could harness vitamin cofactors to aid their function in a manner similar to protein enzymes, it would enable them to catalyse a much larger set of chemical reactions. The cofactor thiamin diphosphate, a derivative of vitamin B1 (thiamin), is used by enzymes to catalyse difficult metabolic reactions, including decarboxylation of stable α-keto acids such as pyruvate. Here, we report a ribozyme that uses free thiamin to decarboxylate a pyruvate-based suicide substrate (LnkPB). Thiamin conjugated to biotin was used to isolate catalytic individuals from a pool of random-sequence RNAs attached to LnkPB. Analysis of a stable guanosine adduct obtained via digestion of an RNA sequence (clone dc4) showed the expected decarboxylation product. The discovery of a prototypic thiamin-utilizing ribozyme has implications for the role of RNA in orchestrating early metabolic cycles.