Engineering enzyme activity using an expanded amino acid alphabet

Zachary Birch-Price, Christopher J Taylor, Mary Ortmayer, Anthony P Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enzyme design and engineering strategies are typically constrained by the limited size of nature’s genetic alphabet, comprised of only twenty canonical amino acids. In recent years, site-selective incorporation of non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) via an expanded genetic code has emerged as a powerful means of inserting new functional components into proteins, and hundreds of structurally diverse amino acids are now available. Here, we highlight how the emergence of an expanded repertoire of amino acids has opened new avenues in enzyme design and engineering. ncAAs have been used to probe complex biological mechanisms, augment enzyme function and, most ambitiously, to embed new catalytic mechanisms into protein active sites that would be challenging to access within the constraints of nature’s genetic code. We predict that the studies reviewed in this article, along with further advances in genetic code expansion technology, will establish ncAA incorporation as an increasingly important tool for biocatalysis in the coming years.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProtein Engineering, Design and Selection
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2022


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