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Ribozyme rolling circle amplification

Carlsbergfondets internationaliseringsstipendier


This project aims to develop new scientific techniques in the field of RNA-based catalysis focusing on RNA-catalysed self-copying. The developed techniques have the potential to, in combination, lead to invention of the world's first "man made" RNA-based self-copying systems. Following the RNA-world hypothesis, RNA-based self-copying systems are believed to have been a requirement for the origin of life.


The origin of life marks an important transition not the least for us humans that are a result of it. Today, it is believed that our biology was preceded by a simpler version in which the ancestors to modern life used RNA instead of proteins and DNA. A cornerstone in this RNA world hypothesis is the appearance of a RNA-based system with the ability to copy itself. Such self-copying systems would have been able to optimise themselves through repeating self-copying cycles and through this process ignite the transition towards Darwinian evolution, which is a prerequisite for development of the life, as we know it. Understanding of the origin of life might lead to a better understanding of life in general.


In-depth investigations of the function of existing RNA-catalysed processes using advanced biochemical and biophysical research methods will be combined with techniques for directing the evolution of RNA molecules towards novel catalytic abilities in order to explore RNA-catalysed self-copying. In particular, we plan to develop a catalytic RNA molecule that can perform a process called rolling circle replication, where a circular RNA template is replicated in a continuous manner. This process is known from nature e.g. in replication of some RNA virus genomes and might provide a simple way to assist self-copying.


The project aims to investigate matters concerning a very crustal moment in the origin of life. This is of interest for the broader public as well as for scientific milieus. The methodology developed in the project can be used in the field of synthetic biology and offers potential applications in biotechnology and molecular medicine.