Using computational design, researchers have transformed a protein with no catalytic abilities into a highly active enzyme. Scientists said the experiment, reported in the June 25 Science, represents a valuable step in the quest to design enzymes from scratch.

"In principle, the design tools are general and may be used to design many different enzymes at will. If this turns out to be true, then we can really start to design catalysts at will," Homme Hellinga at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, senior author on the paper, told The Scientist.

Hellinga and his team began with ribose-binding protein (RBP), a molecule they had in prior computational biology experiments made into a high-affinity receptor for nonnatural ligands such as serotonin and trinitrotoluene. Their latest research transformed RBP into an enzyme highly active as a triose phosphate isomerase (TIM). TIM is active in glycolysis, catalyzing the interconversion between...

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