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Chembiochem. 2008 Nov 24;9(17):2773-8. doi: 10.1002/cbic.200800439.

Polymerization of alpha-hydroxy acids by ribosomes.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, 113-8656 Tokyo, Japan.


Over 30 years ago, Fahnestock and Rich reported intriguing data showing the capability of the ribosome to polymerize phenyllactic acid. Although the polymerization was initiated and terminated randomly on polyuridic acids, the given data convincingly suggested that the generated polymer was composed of an approximately 7:3 mixture of phenyllactic acid and phenylalanine. Despite the fact that Fahnestock's conclusion was very likely correct, there have been no reports to follow up the ribosome-catalyzed polymerization of alpha-hydroxy acids until very recently. At the end of 2007, we reported messenger RNA (mRNA)-directed polyester synthesis by using the new emerging method of genetic-code reprogramming in which alpha-hydroxy acids with various kinds of side-chains are assigned to arbitrarily chosen codons. In this work, we have achieved the ribosomal synthesis of polyesters with the sequence composition and length in a fully controlled manner according to the sequence of mRNA. This Concept article describes the background of the method development and its application to the synthesis of polyesters.

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