News & AnalysisSynthetic Biology

Designer Microbes Expand Life's Genetic Alphabet

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  09 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6184, pp. 571
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6184.571

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


All living things use two pairs of DNA nucleotides, or bases, to write their DNA. Now, researchers have created a microbe capable of adding a third pair. So in addition to the usual A-T and C-G base pairs, there is now X and Y. Not only do the designer microbes take up presynthesized X and Y nucleotides introduced into the surrounding culture medium, but they also use them to copy genes containing X-Y pairs. The advance opens the way for creating a wide variety of proteins with amino acids other than the standard 20 used in biology, which could lead to new protein-based materials and pharmaceuticals.