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J Am Chem Soc. 2005 Aug 24;127(33):11727-35.

Ribosomal synthesis of unnatural peptides.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Combinatorial libraries of non-biological polymers and drug-like peptides could in principle be synthesized from unnatural amino acids by exploiting the broad substrate specificity of the ribosome. The ribosomal synthesis of such libraries would allow rare functional molecules to be identified using technologies developed for the in vitro selection of peptides and proteins. Here, we use a reconstituted E. coli translation system to simultaneously re-assign 35 of the 61 sense codons to 12 unnatural amino acid analogues. This reprogrammed genetic code was used to direct the synthesis of a single peptide containing 10 different unnatural amino acids. This system is compatible with mRNA-display, enabling the synthesis of unnatural peptide libraries of 10(14) unique members for the in vitro selection of functional unnatural molecules. We also show that the chemical space sampled by these libraries can be expanded using mutant aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases for the incorporation of additional unnatural amino acids or by the specific posttranslational chemical derivitization of reactive groups with small molecules. This system represents a first step toward a platform for the synthesis by enzymatic tRNA aminoacylation and ribosomal translation of cyclic peptides comprised of unnatural amino acids that are similar to the nonribosomal peptides.

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