A nuclease-resistant RNA enzyme, constructed entirely from L-ribonucleotides, was shown to undergo ligand-dependent, self-sustained replication with exponential growth. The catalytic motif is based on a previously described RNA ligase that can undergo either self- or cross-replication but had been limited in its application to ligand sensing due to its susceptibility to degradation by ribonucleases. The self-replicating RNA enzyme and its RNA substrates were prepared synthetically from either D- or L-nucleoside phosphoramidites. The D and L reaction systems undergo isothermal, ligand-dependent exponential amplification in the same manner, but only the l system is impervious to ribonucleases and can operate, for example, in the presence of human serum. This system has potential for the quantitative detection of various ligands that are present within biological or environmental samples. In addition, this work provides the first demonstration of the self-sustained exponential amplification of nonbiological molecules.