La Jolla--A strain of genetically enhanced bacteria developed by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies may pave the way for new synthetic drugs and new ways of manufacturing medicines and biofuels, according to a paper published September 18 in Nature Chemical Biology.
For the first time, the scientists were able to create bacteria capable of effectively incorporating "unnatural" amino acids - artificial additions to the 20 naturally occurring amino acids used as biological building blocks - into proteins at multiple sites. This ability may provide a powerful new tool for the study of biological processes and for engineering bacteria that produce new types of synthetic chemicals.
"This provides us with a lot more room to think about what we can do with protein synthesis," said Lei Wang, assistant professor in Salk's Chemical Biology and Proteomics Laboratory and holder of the Frederick B. Rentschler Developmental Chair. "It opens up new possibilities, from creating drugs that last longer in the blood stream to manufacturing chemicals in a more environmentally friendly manner."
In 2001, Wang and his colleagues were the first to create bacteria that incorporated unnatural amino acids (Uaas) into proteins, and, in 2007, they first used the technique in mammalian cells. They did this by creating an "expanded genetic code," overriding the genetic code of the cells and instructing them to use the artificial amino acids in the construction of proteins.
The addition of Uaas changes the chemical properties of proteins, promising new ways to use proteins in research, drug development and chemical manufacturing.
For instance, Wang and his colleagues have inserted Uaas that will glow under a microscope when exposed to certain colors of light. Because proteins serve as the basis for a wide range of cellular functions, the ability to visualize this machinery operating in live cells and in real time hel
|Contact: Andy Hoang|