Taylor et. al. (Nature, 2014) recently published the discovery of XNAzymes, synthetic genetic polymers (XNAs) with alternative backbone chemistries not found in nature, which fold into defined structures and bind ligands to form catalysts directly from random XNA oligomer pools, exhibiting in trans RNA endonuclease and ligase activities. The researchers used the NEXTflex™ Barcodes to index polyclonal cDNA from XNA selections which were amplified using PCR for Illumina sequencing. Their results extend catalysis beyond biopolymers and establish technologies for the discovery of catalysts in a wide range of polymer scaffolds not found in nature. Evolution of catalysis independent of any natural polymer has implications for the definition of chemical boundary conditions for the emergence of life on Earth and elsewhere.
Taylor, A. I., Pinheiro, V. B., Smola, M. J., Morgunov, A. S., Peak-Chew, S., Cozens, C., Weeks, K. M., Herdewijn,P. and Holliger, P. (2014) Catalysts from synthetic genetic polymers. Nature doi:10.1038/nature13982.