Peptide-templated nucleic acid ligation

Matthew Levy, Andrew D. Ellington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Short oligonucleotide and peptide replicators have been described. To determine whether cross-replication could have occurred between such systems, we have attempted to show that peptides can specifically template the ligation of nucleic acids. A complex between a 35-mer anti-Rev RNA aptamer and a 17-mer arginine-rich motif (ARM) peptide from the HIV-1 Rev protein served as a model system. Aptamer half-molecules were activated for ligation via two activation chemistries, representing two distinct kinetic possibilities for early replicators. Cyanogen bromide activation was transient relative to oligonucleotides that terminated with a 5′-iodine and a 3′phosphorothioate, respectively. The Rev ARM specifically enhanced the degree or rate of ligation by both methods: there was a 10-fold increase in the production of full-length aptamer in the presence of cyanogen bromide and a 5.9- to 7.6-fold enhancement in the rate of ligation for stably activated aptamer half-molecules. These results support the possibility that life could have originated with peptide replicators and transitioned to nucleic acid replicators or that peptide and nucleic acid replicators could have been interdependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-615
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Aptamer
  • Non-enzymatic ligation
  • Peptide-directed
  • Template-directed ligation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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