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Template-free RNA synthesis by Qβ replicase


In the absence of extraneously added template, standard preparations of Qβ replicase spontaneously synthesize RNA in vitro, possibly as a result of RNA contamination1. Using special enzyme purifications, Sumper and Luce2 presented evidence that self-replicating RNA not present ab initio can grow out of ‘template-free’ incorporation mixtures. In contrast to DNA polymerase I and RNA polymerase, which also show de novo synthesis3–5, the products synthesized ‘de novo’ by Qβ replicase are RNA species containing nonrepetitive sequences of defined lengths which differ between experiments, even when synthesized under identical conditions, in fingerprints, chain lengths and kinetic parameters6. Kinetic analysis of the de novo processes7 distinguished it from template-instructed synthesis and excluded an assumption of self-replicating RNA contamination. These conclusions were questioned recently by Hill and Blumenthal8, who claimed to show that highly purified Qβ replicase preparations cannot produce RNA de novo. We now present evidence that, under the conditions required for de novo synthesis, Qβ replicase prepared according to their method is also capable of de novo synthesis. Furthermore, we show that Qβ replicase condenses nucleoside triphosphates to more or less random oligonucleotides.

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Biebricher, C., Eigen, M. & Luce, R. Template-free RNA synthesis by Qβ replicase. Nature 321, 89–91 (1986).

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