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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Oct 15;93(21):11428-34.

On the failure of de novo-designed peptides as biocatalysts.

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Urology Department, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98195, USA.


While the elegance and efficiency of enzymatic catalysis have long tempted chemists and biochemists with reductionist leanings to try to mimic the functions of natural enzymes in much smaller peptides, such efforts have only rarely produced catalysts with biologically interesting properties. However, the advent of genetic engineering and hybridoma technology and the discovery of catalytic RNA have led to new and very promising alternative means of biocatalyst development. Synthetic chemists have also had some success in creating nonpeptide catalysts with certain enzyme-like characteristics, although their rates and specificities are generally much poorer than those exhibited by the best novel biocatalysts based on natural structures. A comparison of the various approaches from theoretical and practical viewpoints is presented. It is suggested that, given our current level of understanding, the most fruitful methods may incorporate both iterative selection strategies and rationally chosen small perturbations, superimposed on frameworks designed by nature.

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