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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 May;94(3):583-99. doi: 10.1007/s00253-012-3961-z. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

Restriction endonucleases: natural and directed evolution.

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Department of Biotechnology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India 160014.


Type II restriction endonucleases (REs) are highly sequence-specific compared with other classes of nucleases. PD-(D/E)XK nucleases, initially represented by only type II REs, now comprise a large and extremely diverse superfamily of proteins and, although sharing a structurally conserved core, typically display little or no detectable sequence similarity except for the active site motifs. Sequence similarity can only be observed in methylases and few isoschizomers. As a consequence, REs are classified according to combinations of functional properties rather than on the basis of genetic relatedness. New alignment matrices and classification systems based on structural core connectivity and cleavage mechanisms have been developed to characterize new REs and related proteins. REs recognizing more than 300 distinct specificities have been identified in RE database (REBASE: ) but still the need for newer specificities is increasing due to the advancement in molecular biology and applications. The enzymes have undergone constant evolution through structural changes in protein scaffolds which include random mutations, homologous recombinations, insertions, and deletions of coding DNA sequences but rational mutagenesis or directed evolution delivers protein variants with new functions in accordance with defined biochemical or environmental pressures. Redesigning through random mutation, addition or deletion of amino acids, methylation-based selection, synthetic molecules, combining recognition and cleavage domains from different enzymes, or combination with domains of additional functions change the cleavage specificity or substrate preference and stability. There is a growing number of patents awarded for the creation of engineered REs with new and enhanced properties.

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