Evolutionary origin of RNA editing.

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Evolutionary origin of RNA editing.

Biochemistry. 2012 Jul 3;51(26):5235-42

Authors: Gray MW

The term "RNA editing" encompasses a wide variety of mechanistically and phylogenetically unrelated processes that change the nucleotide sequence of an RNA species relative to that of the encoding DNA. Two general classes of editing, substitution and insertion/deletion, have been described, with all major types of cellular RNA (messenger, ribosomal, and transfer) undergoing editing in different organisms. In cases where RNA editing is required for function (e.g., to generate a translatable open reading frame in a mRNA), editing is an obligatory step in the pathway of genetic information expression. How, when, and why individual RNA editing systems originated are intriguing biochemical and evolutionary questions. Here I review briefly what is known about the biochemistry, genetics, and phylogenetics of several very different RNA editing systems, emphasizing what we can deduce about their origin and evolution from the molecular machinery involved. An evolutionary model, centered on the concept of "constructive neutral evolution", is able to account in a general way for the origin of RNA editing systems. The model posits that the biochemical elements of an RNA editing system must be in place before there is an actual need for editing, and that RNA editing systems are inherently mutagenic because they allow potentially deleterious or lethal mutations to persist at the genome level, whereas they would otherwise be purged by purifying selection.

PMID: 22708551 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]