First Artificial Enzyme

Scientific American

With the goal of making synthetic biological components [see “Engineering Life: Building a Fab for Biology”; SciAm, June 2006], researchers have crafted the first artificial enzyme—specifically, an enzyme that removes a proton from a carbon atom. The team, from the University of Washington, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, used a computational model to devise potential enzymes constructed from 200 amino acids. After finding the enzyme that showed the most activity, the group further improved it by making it undergo evolution in a test tube. Seven rounds of evolution—the introduction of mutations—improved the enzyme’s efficiency 200-fold. Nature published the study online March 19.