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Trends Biochem Sci. 2001 Feb;26(2):100-6.

How enzymes adapt: lessons from directed evolution.

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  • 1Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 210-41, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA. frances@cheme.caltech.edu


Enzymes that are adapted to widely different temperature niches are being used to investigate the molecular basis of protein stability and enzyme function. However, natural evolution is complex: random noise, historical accidents and ignorance of the selection pressures at work during adaptation all cloud comparative studies. Here, we review how adaptation in the laboratory by directed evolution can complement studies of natural enzymes in the effort to understand stability and function. Laboratory evolution experiments can attempt to mimic natural evolution and identify different adaptive mechanisms. However, laboratory evolution might make its biggest contribution in explorations of nonnatural functions, by allowing us to distinguish the properties nutured by evolution from those dictated by the laws of physical chemistry.

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