clear
Wednesday December 13th, 2017 9:45AM

Expanding DNA's alphabet lets cells produce novel proteins

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists are expanding the genetic code of life, using man-made DNA to create a semi-synthetic strain of bacteria — and new research shows those altered microbes actually worked to produce proteins unlike those found in nature.

It's a step toward designer drug development.

One of the first lessons in high school biology: All life is made up of four DNA building blocks known by the letters A, T, C and G. Paired together, they form DNA's ladder-like rungs. Now there's a new rung on that ladder.

A team at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, expanded the genetic alphabet, creating two artificial DNA "letters" called X and Y. A few years ago, the researchers brewed up a type of E. coli bacteria commonly used for lab research that contained both natural DNA and this new artificial base pair — storing extra genetic information inside cells.

The next challenge: Normal DNA contains the coding for cells to form proteins that do the work of life. Could cells carrying this weird genomic hybrid work the same way?

Sure enough, the altered cells glowed green as they produced a fluorescent protein containing unnatural amino acids, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"We can make proteins that are built of more things than they normally are," explained Scripps chemist Floyd Romesberg, who leads the project.

While programming the green germs offered evidence that the approach can work, eventually "we would like to get proteins that do new things," he said.

That's an ultimate goal in the field of synthetic biology — designing organisms that work differently from the way nature intended so scientists can harness them to create designer drugs, biofuels or a range of other products. Scripps' technology has been licensed by a biotech company Romesberg co-founded, Synthorx Inc., that aims to make novel protein-based drugs.

The new work traced the biological steps as the altered E. coli read the artificial genetic code and assembled the pieces for a new protein, with the same efficiency as if using normal DNA.

The result is a platform that offers a way to increase the diversity of proteins made inside living cells, said Jef Boeke, a synthetic biology researcher at New York University who wasn't involved in Scripps' work.

This bacterial strain was "modified in a really dramatic and unusual way at these positions in its genome," Boeke said. "And that's what makes it different from every other organism on the planet today."

___

This Associated Press series was produced in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Health
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Natalie Morales 'shocked' by Matt Lauer firing
The Latest: Former 'Today' co-host Natalie Morales expresses shock at Matt Lauer's firing over sexual misconduct allegations
2:03PM ( 8 minutes ago )
NBC fires Matt Lauer over 'inappropriate sexual behavior'
NBC says longtime "Today" show host Matt Lauer has been fired for "inappropriate sexual behavior."
2:03PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Britain's May in Saudi Arabia after surprise stop in Iraq
British Prime Minister Theresa May in Saudi Arabia after making surprise visit to Iraq on Mideast tour
1:58PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: UN prosecutors urge Croatia to accept findings
Prosecutors at a United Nations war crimes tribunal are welcoming an appeals panel's judgment upholding the convictions of six Bosnian Croat military and political leaders
1:32PM ( 39 minutes ago )
The Latest: Deborah Norville expresses shock at Lauer firing
The Latest: Former 'Today' host Deborah Norville expresses shock at Matt Lauer's firing over sexual misconduct allegations
1:31PM ( 40 minutes ago )
House panel takes up bill expanding gun owners' rights
A key House committee is moving forward on a Republican bill to expand gun owners' rights, the first gun legislation since mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas killed more than 80 people
1:29PM ( 42 minutes ago )
AP National News
Michigan sports doctor pleads guilty to assaulting gymnasts
A disgraced Michigan sports doctor who admits he sexually assaulted female gymnasts and possessed child pornography pleaded guilty Wednesday in a third criminal case, acknowledging that he molested girls who sought treatment for injuries
12:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
Prospects brighter for tax overhaul, success not assured
GOP leaders toiled behind the scenes Wednesday in hopes of readying a long-anticipated tax bill for a floor debate
12:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: May spokesman: Trump 'wrong' for video retweet
British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman says President Donald Trump was wrong to share anti-Muslim videos tweeted by a U.K. far-right leader
12:15PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Natalie Morales 'shocked' by Matt Lauer firing
The Latest: Former 'Today' co-host Natalie Morales expresses shock at Matt Lauer's firing over sexual misconduct allegations
2:03PM ( 8 minutes ago )
NBC fires Matt Lauer over 'inappropriate sexual behavior'
NBC says longtime "Today" show host Matt Lauer has been fired for "inappropriate sexual behavior."
2:03PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Britain's May in Saudi Arabia after surprise stop in Iraq
British Prime Minister Theresa May in Saudi Arabia after making surprise visit to Iraq on Mideast tour
1:58PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Chinese actress Liu Yifei cast as Disney's Mulan
Chinese actress Liu Yifei cast as Disney's Mulan in live-action film slated for 2019
1:53PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Tampa police: Finding gun was key in arrest in 4 slayings
Police in Tampa, Florida, say finding a gun used in the slayings of four people was very important to making an arrest 51 days after the serial killings began
1:48PM ( 23 minutes ago )