Watching the Evolution of a Protein’s Function

A major challenge in research to enable large-scale biofuels production is developing enzymes that are highly efficient in converting biomass components into usable fuels.  Using directed evolution (i.e., a technique for modifying protein function), researchers have determined the structural basis for converting a noncatalytic small protein into an effective enzyme for for linking RNA molecules.  Extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) was used to determine the Zn-containing active-site structure of this RNA ligase, synthesized through in-vitro directed evolution.

F.-A. Chao, A. Morelli, J. C. Haugner, III, L. Churchfield, L. N. Hagmann, L. Shi, L. R. Masterson, R. Sarangi, G. Veglia and B. Seeling, “Structure and Dynamics of a Primordil Catalytic Fold Generated by in vitro Evolution”, Nat. Chem. Biol. 9, 81 (2013) doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1138