Life (Basel, Switzerland)

Reconciling ligase ribozyme activity with Fatty Acid vesicle stability.

PMID 25513761


The "RNA world" and the "Lipid world" theories for the origin of cellular life are often considered incompatible due to the differences in the environmental conditions at which they can emerge. One obstacle resides in the conflicting requirements for divalent metal ions, in particular Mg2+, with respect to optimal ribozyme activity, fatty acid vesicle stability and protection against RNA strand cleavage. Here, we report on the activity of a short L1 ligase ribozyme in the presence of myristoleic acid (MA) vesicles at varying concentrations of Mg2+. The ligation rate is significantly lower at low-Mg2+ conditions. However, the loss of activity is overcompensated by the increased stability of RNA leading to a larger amount of intact ligated substrate after long reaction periods. Combining RNA ligation assays with fatty acid vesicles we found that MA vesicles made of 5 mM amphiphile are stable and do not impair ligase ribozyme activity in the presence of approximately 2 mM Mg2+. These results provide a scenario in which catalytic RNA and primordial membrane assembly can coexist in the same environment.