RNA and Protein - A Match Made in the Hadean

Fri 7 Feb 2020

Johns Hopkins University Mudd Hall 100 Baltimore, MD 21210


12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

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The ribosome, made from RNA and protein, is responsible for translation of mRNA to coded protein in all living systems. The significance of translation is indicated in ribosomal universality, antiquity, centrality, economy, and complexity. The universal common core of the ribosome, with a mass of nearly 2 million Daltons, was finalized by the last common ancestor of life (LUCA) and has remained essentially fixed in structure in all species for around 4 billion years. Therefore, the ribosome is a telescope to the distant past, into the root of the tree of life. The ribosome reveals the history of biopolymers. RNA-metal complexes converted to RNA-protein assemblies. Simultaneously, proteins learned to fold. As ancient ancestors of proteins grew in size and chemical sophistication, random coil converted to β-hairpins, which collapsed to form β-domain proteins. In the final steps, maturation of the exit tunnel promoted α-helix formation, partially offsetting the general tendency of all proteins to form β-sheets.

Speaker: Loren Williams (Georgia Institute of Technology)


This talk will be held at Mudd Hall 100 on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. Light lunch (provided) starts at 12pm; talk starts at 12:30pm.

Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series presentations are also webcast live. Webcasts can be viewed at the STScI webcast site during the scheduled presentation, and can be found afterward in the STScI webcast archive.

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