The ribosome is responsible for protein synthesis in all living organisms. This multimolecular machine also represents the oldest macromolecular assembly of life. As part of our effort to understand the origin and early evolution of life, we collaborate with the Williams Laboratory on investigations of ribosome evolution, structure, and folding. For example, chemical probing of the ribosome and isolated sections of the ribosome, using the SHAPE technique, are providing information regarding which parts of the ribosome are likely to have been added in the latter stages of ribosome evolution, and insights into what might have been the structure of the oldest functioning ribosome. This area of research is referred to as “molecular paleontology.” The research goals of this research include: Characterizing the machinery of peptide synthesis to determine and recreate key steps in the transition from the RNA world to the protein world; Uncovering clues as to the nature of the peptide synthesis machinery that was operational during life’s transition from non-coded to coded peptides; and Discovering and characterizing the oldest traceable macromolecules and machines of life, and the earliest discernable connection of the RNA world to the RNA-protein world.
For more information on this topic, visit the Ribo Evo Website.