Urzymology: Experimental Access to a Key Transition in the Appearance of Enzymes [Protein Synthesis and Degradation]

September 10th, 2014 by Carter, C. W.

Urzymes are catalysts derived from invariant cores of protein superfamilies. Urzymes from both aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase classes possess sophisticated catalytic mechanisms - pre-steady state bursts, significant transition-state stabilization of both amino acid activation and tRNA acylation. However, they have insufficient specificity to ensure a fully developed genetic code, suggesting that they participated in synthesizing statistical proteins. They represent a robust experimental platform from which to articulate and test hypotheses both about their own ancestors and how they, in turn, evolved into modern enzymes. They help reshape numerous paradigms from the RNA World hypothesis to protein structure databases and allostery.