Their most recent results, published in the May 23rd edition of the journal PLoS ONE, have led to some surprisingly new lessons on how to optimize proteins which have never existed in nature before, in a process they call â˜synthetic evolution.â™
"The goal of our research is to understand certain fundamental questions regarding the origin and evolution of proteins," said Chaput, a researcher in the instituteâ™s Center for BioOptical Nanotechnology and assistant professor in Arizona State Universityâ™s department of chemistry and biochemistry. "Would proteins that we evolve in the lab look like proteins we see today in nature or do they look totally different from the set of proteins nature ultimately chose" By gaining a better understanding of these questions, we hope to one day create new tailor-made catalysts that can be used as therapeutics in molecular medicine or biocatalysts in biotechnology."
The building blocks of proteins are 20 different amino acids that are strung together
A new wrinkle in evolution -- Man-made proteins
Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
Arizona State University
Nature, through the trial and error of evolution, has discovered a vast diversity of life from what can only presumed to have been a primordial pool of building blocks. Inspired by this success, a new Biodesign Institute research team, led by John Chaput, is now trying to mimic the process of Darwinian evolution in the laboratory by evolving new proteins from scratch. Using new tricks of molecular biology, Chaput and co-workers have evolved several new proteins in a fraction of the 3 billion years it took nature.
The remaining fragments were identified and amino acid sequences compared with one another. Surprisingly, Chaput had bested natureâ™s designs, as the test tube derived protein was not only stable, but could bind ATP twice as tight as anything nature had come up with before.