Albany 2013: Book of Abstracts

category image Albany 2013
Conversation 18
June 11-15 2013
©Adenine Press (2012)

Reconstructing the RNA world

A critical event in the origin of life is thought to have been the emergence of an RNA molecule capable of self-replication as well as mutation, and hence evolution towards ever more efficient replication.

As this primordial replicase appears to be have been lost in time, we use synthetic biology to build modern-day “Doppelgangers” of the ancestral replicase to reconstruct and study their properties in an effort to learn more about life’s first genetic system.

I will discuss our progress in the engineering and evolution of RNA polymerase ribozymes as well as the potential role that structured media such as the eutectic phase of water ice may have played in the emergence of RNA self-replication.


(from left to right) A) primer extension activity of the tC19Z RNA polymerase ribozyme, B) secondary structure diagram of the tC19Z ribozyme, C) STEM image of an eutectic phase (ridges) surrounding water ice crystals

This research was supported by the MRC (U105178804) and a Junior Research Fellowship from Homerton College Cambridge (JA).


    Wochner A., Attwater J., Coulson A. & Holliger P. (2011) Ribozyme-catalyzed transcription of an active ribozyme. Science 332 : 209-212

    Attwater J., Wochner A., Pinheiro V.B., Coulson A. & Holliger P. (2010) Ice as a protocellular medium for RNA replication. Nat Commun. 2010; 1: 76. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1076

James Attwater
Aniela Wochner
Philipp Holliger

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Francis Crick Avenue
Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Cambridge CB2 0QH, UK