Fifty years ago, the group of Tony Mathias and Bob Rabin at University College London deduced the first mechanism for catalysis by an enzyme, ribonuclease [Findlay, D., Herries, D. G., Mathias, A. P., Rabin, B. R., and Ross, C. A. (1961) Nature 190, 781-784]. Here, we celebrate this historic accomplishment by surveying knowledge of enzymology and protein science at that time, facts that led to the formulation of the mechanism, criticisms and alternative mechanisms, data that supported the proposed mechanism, and some of the refinements that have since provided a more precise picture of catalysis of RNA cleavage by ribonucleases. The Mathias and Rabin mechanism has appeared in numerous textbooks, monographs, and reviews and continues to have a profound impact on biochemistry.
© 2011 American Chemical Society