Synthetic Biology

Expanding the genetic code in vertebrates

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Science  06 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 36
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6320.36-c

Unnatural amino acids can be incorporated into target proteins by using a transfer RNA (tRNA)—aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase pair that adds an unnatural amino acid at an amber stop codon. The strategy has been used in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and for generating transgenic invertebrates. Chen et al. have succeeded in integrating a construct coding for the unnatural amino acid p-azido-phenylalanine (AzF) into the mouse genome. The artificial gene was transmitted to subsequent generations and caused no obvious physiological defects. Primary cells from adult transgenic mice incorporated AzF into a fluorescent reporter protein containing an amber codon. Similarly, the genetic code of zebrafish was expanded, and in vivo incorporation of AzF into reporter protein was achieved. This opens the potential to investigate the function of target proteins in living animals.

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