Aspects of biochemical catalysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

In the nineteenth century characterization of enzymatic activities and the identification of their chemical nature proceeded simultaneously. The subsequent purification and crystallization of dozens of proteins with enzymatic activity led to the expectation that proteins alone would be the macromolecules involved in biochemical catalysis. Consequently the principles of chemistry, which make no assertion regarding the nature of the 'matrix' to which reactive groups may be covalently linked in a catalyst, have not dominated thoughts about the nature of intracellular catalysis during recent decades. For example, after it was shown that proteins can carry out very specific reactions with nucleic acid substrates, such as the aminoacylation of tRNAS or the nucleolytic restriction of DNA, it was assumed that there was no need for the involvement of nucleic acids themselves as cofactors or catalytic agents in such reactions. Early considerations of structure-function relationships in ribosomes generated a widely accepted notion that rRNAs act merely as scaffolds on which the functionally important ribosomal proteins are fixed. The role of RNA in catalysis was, however, brought into question with the observation that an RNA molecule (M1 RNA) is essential for function of RNAase P, the enzyme that processes transcripts of tRNA genes. This observation, taken together with the recent discovery of enzymatic activity associated with rRNA precursor molecules of Tetrahymena thermophila and with the RNA subunit itself of RNAase P, suggests that it is appropriated to reexamine the role of both RNA and protein in particular ribonucleoprotein complexes. We should also consider what advantages RNA molecules have when compared with proteins as catalysts for certain kinds of reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-239
Number of pages3
JournalCell
Volume36
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Catalysis
RNA
Proteins
Nucleic Acids
Molecules
Tetrahymena thermophila
Aminoacylation
Catalysts
Ribonucleoproteins
Ribosomal Proteins
RNA Precursors
Transfer RNA
Crystallization
Macromolecules
Ribosomes
Scaffolds
Purification
Genes
DNA
Substrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Aspects of biochemical catalysis. / Altman, Sidney.

In: Cell, Vol. 36, No. 2, 1984, p. 237-239.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Altman, S 1984, 'Aspects of biochemical catalysis', Cell, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 237-239.
Altman, Sidney. / Aspects of biochemical catalysis. In: Cell. 1984 ; Vol. 36, No. 2. pp. 237-239.
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