Expansion of the Genetic Code Through the Use of Modified Bacterial Ribosomes

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4 Scopus citations


Biological protein synthesis is mediated by the ribosome, and employs ~20 proteinogenic amino acids as building blocks. Through the use of misacylated tRNAs, presently accessible by any of several strategies, it is now possible to employ in vitro and in vivo protein biosynthesis to elaborate proteins containing a much larger variety of amino acid building blocks. However, the incorporation of this broader variety of amino acids is limited to those species utilized by the ribosome. As a consequence, virtually all of the substrates utilized over time have been L-α-amino acids. In recent years, a variety of structural and biochemical studies have provided important insights into those regions of the 23S ribosomal RNA that are involved in peptide bond formation. Subsequent experiments, involving the randomization of key regions of 23S rRNA required for peptide bond formation, have afforded libraries of E. coli harboring plasmids with the rrnB gene modified in the key regions. Selections based on the use of modified puromycin derivatives with altered amino acids then identified clones uniquely sensitive to individual puromycin derivatives. These clones often recognized misacylated tRNAs containing altered amino acids similar to those in the modified puromycins, and incorporated the amino acid analogues into proteins. In this fashion, it has been possible to realize the synthesis of proteins containing D-amino acids, β-amino acids, phosphorylated amino acids, as well as long chain and cyclic amino acids in which the nucleophilic amino group is not in the α-position. Of special interest have been dipeptides and dipeptidomimetics of diverse utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number167211
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 30 2022


  • misacylated tRNAs
  • modified bacterial ribosomes
  • non-canonical amino acids
  • structurally modified proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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