The ability of ribozymes (i.e. RNA enzymes) to specifically recognize and subsequently catalyze the cleavage of an RNA substrate makes them attractive for the development of therapeutic tools for the inactivation of both viral RNAs and mRNAs associated with various diseases. Several applicable ribozyme models have been tested both in vitro and in a cellular environment, and have shown significant promise. However, several hurdles remain to be surpassed before we generate a useful geneinactivation system based on a ribozyme. Among the most important requirements for further progress are a better understanding of the features that contribute to defining the substrate specificity for cleavage by a ribozyme, and the identification of the potential cleavage sites in a given target RNA. The goal of this review is to illustrate the importance of both of these factors at the RNA level in the development of any type of ribozyme based gene-therapy. This is achieved by reviewing the recent progress in both the structure-function relationships and the development of a gene-inactivation system of a model ribozyme, specifically delta ribozyme.
Keywords: ribozyme, substrate specificity, hepatitis delta virus, gene-inactivation, rna structure-function
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