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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2006 Oct;10(5):498-508. Epub 2006 Aug 30.

Enzyme promiscuity: evolutionary and mechanistic aspects.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


The past few years have seen significant advances in research related to the 'latent skills' of enzymes - namely, their capacity to promiscuously catalyze reactions other than the ones they evolved for. These advances regard (i) the mechanism of catalytic promiscuity - how enzymes, that generally exert exquisite specificity, promiscuously catalyze other, and sometimes barely related, reactions; (ii) the evolvability of promiscuous functions - namely, how latent activities evolve further, and in particular, how promiscuous activities can firstly evolve without severely compromising the original activity. These findings have interesting implications on our understanding of how new enzymes evolve. They support the key role of catalytic promiscuity in the natural history of enzymes, and suggest that today's enzymes diverged from ancestral proteins catalyzing a whole range of activities at low levels, to create families and superfamilies of potent and highly specialized enzymes.

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