Ribozyme (ribonucleic acid enzyme) is an RNA molecule that has catalytic properties and is able to perform specific biochemical reactions, similar to the action of protein enzymes.

Ribozymes have the following characteristics:

They use RNA as a substrate.

Ribozymes have been shown to be highly specific, efficient, and stable molecules that catalyze the cleavage of RNA substrates and induce the formation of covalent bonds in RNA strands at specific sites. It also acts as an enzyme that synthesizes RNA as part of the transcription process. It also syntheizes RNA primers during DNA replication

They have a hammerhead-like secondary structure. These structures can bind to a second RNA molecule recognizing a specific sequence (about 20 nucleotides) and cleave at a specific GUX triplet (X = C, A, or U). Ribozymes thus represent a tool to eliminate the expression of specific genes and are being tested in several hematological disease states, including neoplasia.

Some ribozymes may play an important role as therapeutic agents, antiviral agents as enzymes that target defined RNA sequences for cleavage, biosensors, and for applications in functional genomics and gene discovery


Kaushansky, Kenneth. “Glossary of Molecular Biology Terminology.” ASH Education Program Book 2000.1 (2000)
Marín-García, J. (2011). Post-genomic cardiology. Academic Press.
Burke, D. H. (2004). Ribozyme-catalyzed genetics. In The Genetic Code and the Origin of Life (pp. 48-74). Springer, Boston, MA.

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