3-D structure of the evolved enzyme (an RNA ligase), using 10 overlaid snapshots. In the top region, the overlays show the range of bending and folding flexibility in the amino acid chain that forms the molecule. The two gray balls are zinc ions. Credit: University of Minnesota / Peggy Rinard

Researchers unveil first artificial enzyme created by evolution in test tube

January 30, 2013

(Phys.org)—There’s a wobbly new biochemical structure in Burckhard Seelig’s lab at the University of Minnesota that may resemble what enzymes looked like billions of years ago, when life on earth began to evolve – long before they became ingredients for new and improved products, from detergents to foods and fuels.

Seelig created the fledgling enzyme by using directed evolution in the laboratory. Working with colleague Gianluigi Veglia, graduate student Fa-An Chao, and other team members, he subsequently determined its structure, which made its debut December 9 as an advance online publication in Nature Chemical Biology. Lab tests show that the enzyme (a type of RNA ligase, which connects two RNA molecules) functions like natural enzymes although its structure looks very different and it is flexible rather than rigid. Seelig speculates the new protein resembles primordial enzymes, before their current structures evolved.

Read more: Researchers unveil first artificial enzyme created by evolution in test tube — phys.org.

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