The Structural Role of Mg2+ Ions in a Class I RNA Polymerase Ribozyme: A Molecular Simulation Study
According to the RNA world hypothesis, self-replicating ribozymes, storing the genetic information and being able to perform catalysis, were the constituents of the first living organisms. In particular, RNA polymerase ribozymes, similar to current proteinaceous enzymatic polymerases, may have been able to promote the synthesis of RNA strands in a primitive world. Polymerase catalysis is usually assisted by Mg2+ ions, but it is not always trivial to find out experimentally the number of Mg2+ ions placed in the active site as well as the identity and the number of their coordination ligands. Here, we addressed this issue in an artificial class I ligase ribozyme. On the basis of a recently solved crystal structure, we constructed computational models of reactant and product states of this ribozyme, considering monometallic and bimetallic species. Our models were relaxed by force field based molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and mixed quantum-classical (QM/MM) MD. The structural and dynamical properties of these models were consistent with experimental data and were validated by a comparison with the catalytic sites of proteinaceous DNA and RNA polymerases. Consistently with enzymatic polymerases, our results suggest that class I RNA ligases most probably contain two magnesium ions in the active site and they may, therefore, catalyze the junction of two RNA strands via ?a two Mg2+ ions? mechanism.