Dihydrouridine is absent from the tRNA of almost all hyperthermophiles and most Archaea but is ubiquitous in the tRNA of Eubacteria and Eukaryotes. In order to investigate whether this could be due to instability, the rate of ring opening of dihydrouridine was measured between 25 and 120 °C. The dihydrouridine ring is stable at 25 °C, but the half-life at 100 °C and pH 7 is 9.1 h, which is comparable to the doubling time of hyperthermophiles. This suggests an explanation for the absence of dihydrouridine from the tRNA of hyperthermophiles. The rates of ring opening of dihydrouracil, dihydrothymine, and 1-N-tnethyldihydrouracil were measured at 100 °C and pH 6-9, as were the equilibrium constants for ring closure of the ureido acids to the dihydrouracils. The pH rate profiles for ring opening and ring closing were calculated from the data. Possible roles for dihydrouracils in the pre- RNA world are discussed.
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