A designed supramolecular protein assembly with in vivo enzymatic activity

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Science  19 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6216, pp. 1525-1528
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259680

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The generation of new enzymatic activities has mainly relied on repurposing the interiors of preexisting protein folds because of the challenge in designing functional, three-dimensional protein structures from first principles. Here we report an artificial metallo-β-lactamase, constructed via the self-assembly of a structurally and functionally unrelated, monomeric redox protein into a tetrameric assembly that possesses catalytic zinc sites in its interfaces. The designed metallo-β-lactamase is functional in the Escherichia coli periplasm and enables the bacteria to survive treatment with ampicillin. In vivo screening of libraries has yielded a variant that displays a catalytic proficiency [(kcat/Km)/kuncat] for ampicillin hydrolysis of 2.3 × 106 and features the emergence of a highly mobile loop near the active site, a key component of natural β-lactamases to enable substrate interactions.

Designing activity at an interface

Enzymes are proteins that are the workhorses of the cell. Designing enzymes with new functions that are also manifested in living systems could be extremely valuable in bioengineering and synthetic biology applications. However, enzyme design is a challenging task and so far has mainly been restricted to repurposing natural enzymes and to in vitro systems. Song and Tezcan started with a monomeric redox protein and introduced mutations that cause it to assemble into a tetramer with catalytic zinc ions in its interfaces. This protein assembly displayed β-lactamase activity, the primary mechanism of antibiotic resistance, and enabled E. coli cells to survive ampicillin treatment.

Science, this issue p. 1525

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