New classes of self-cleaving ribozymes revealed by comparative genomics analysis

Nat Chem Biol. 2015 Aug;11(8):606-10. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1846. Epub 2015 Jul 13.


Enzymes made of RNA catalyze reactions that are essential for protein synthesis and RNA processing. However, such natural ribozymes are exceedingly rare, as evidenced by the fact that the discovery rate for new classes has dropped to one per decade from about one per year during the 1980s. Indeed, only 11 distinct ribozyme classes have been experimentally validated to date. Recently, we recognized that self-cleaving ribozymes frequently associate with certain types of genes from bacteria. Herein we exploited this association to identify divergent architectures for two previously known ribozyme classes and to discover additional noncoding RNA motifs that are self-cleaving RNA candidates. We identified three new self-cleaving classes, which we named twister sister, pistol and hatchet, from this collection, suggesting that even more ribozymes remain hidden in modern cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Archaea / enzymology
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleotide Motifs
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteolysis
  • RNA, Catalytic / chemistry*
  • RNA, Catalytic / genetics
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism


  • RNA, Catalytic