Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Biliang Zhang


Evolution, Molecular, RNA, Catalytic, RNA, Ribosomal, Protein Binding, Peptide Biosynthesis, Ribosomes, Peptidyl Transferases, Biological Assay


The "RNA world" hypothesis makes two predictions that RNA should have been able both to catalyze RNA replication and to direct protein synthesis. The evolution of RNA-catalyzed protein synthesis should be critical in the transition from the RNA world to the modem biological systems. Peptide bond formation is a fundamental step in modem protein biosynthesis. Although many evidence suggests that the ribosome is a ribozyme, peptide bond formation has not been achieved with ribosomal RNAs only. The goal of this thesis is to investigate whether RNA could catalyze peptide bond formation and how RNA catalyzes peptide bond formation. Two systems have been employed to approach these questions, the ribozyme system and the ribosome system. Ribozymes have been isolated by in vitro selection that can catalyze peptide bond formation using the aminoacyl-adenylate as the substrate. The isolation of such peptide-synthesizing ribozymes suggests that RNA of antiquity might have directed protein synthesis and bolsters the "RNA world" hypothesis. In the other approach, a novel assay has been established to probe the ribosomal peptidyltransferase reaction in the presence of intact ribosome, ribosomal subunit, or ribosomal RNA alone. Several aspects of the peptidyltransfer reaction have been examined in both systems including metal ion requirement, pH dependence and substrate specificity. The coherence between the two systems is discussed and their potential applications are explored. Although the ribozyme system might not be a reminiscence of the ribosome catalysis, it is still unique in other studies. The newly established assay for ribosomal peptidyltransferase reaction provides a good system to investigate the mechanism of ribosomal reaction and may have potential application in drug screening to search for the specific peptidyltransferase inhibitors.


Some images did not scan well. Please consult original document.



Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.