Via Ivy Privy, I was drawn back to a paper in the most recent issue of Cell that I had skipped over – Tertiary Contacts Distant from the Active Site Prime a Ribozyme for Catalysis, explained more simply by Science Daily.
While the Cell paper may be a tough read for those not familiar with structural biology, and it doesn’t finalize the question of how life began, it does give some insights into the “RNA World” hypothesis: Martick and Scott used
time-resolved crystallography to reconcile mechanistic explanations for ribozyme catalysis that, until recently, held serious discrepancies.
The solution, they found, were additional contacts at the active site that were acquired by previously minimal ribozymes, resulting in a 1000-fold catalytic enhancement. Further, Martick and Scott advance the case for simple acid-base chemistry as the basis for organic chemistry at the dawn of life.