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Yale researchers use genetic code to engineer a living protein
Date:8/25/2011

Yale University researchers have successfully re-engineered the protein-making machinery in bacteria, a technical tour de force that promises to revolutionize the study and treatment of a variety of diseases.

"Essentially, we have expanded the genetic code of E. coli, which allows us synthesize special forms of proteins that can mimic natural or disease states," said Jesse Rinehart of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and co-corresponding author of the research published in the August 26 issue of the journal Science.

Since the structure of DNA was revealed in the 1950s, scientists have been working hard to understand the nature of the genetic code. Decades of research and recent advances in the field of synthetic biology have given researchers the tools to modify the natural genetic code within organisms and even rewrite the universal recipe for life.

"What we have done is taken synthetic biology and turned it around to give us real biology that has been synthesized," Rinehart explained.

The Yale team under the direction of Dieter Sll, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, professor of chemistry and corresponding author of the paper developed a new way to influence the behavior of proteins, which carry out almost all of life's functions. Instead of creating something new in nature, the researchers essentially induced phosphorylation, a fundamental process that occurs in all forms of life and can dramatically change a protein's function. The rules for protein phosphorylation are not directly coded in the DNA but instead occur after the protein is made. The Yale researchers fundamentally rewrote these rules by expanding the E. coli genetic code to include phosphoserine, and for the first time directed protein phosphorylation via DNA.

This new technology now enables the production of human proteins with their naturally occurring phosphorylation sites, a state crucial to
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Contact: Bill Hathaway
william.hathaway@yale.edu
203-432-1322
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert

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