Biomolecules and their dynamic assemblies, in collaboration with the energy provided by NTP hydrolysis, perform a spectacular range of mechanical and chemical manipulations on nanometre scale objects in the cell; molecular motors perform mechanical work, while enzymes rearrange atoms in ways, and at rates that synthetic chemists have difficulty emulating.
The biomolecules and assemblies that perform these diverse functions form the basis of a toolkit for the evolution and synthesis of new function. Recent advances in genome sequencing and structural biology are expanding this toolkit, and beginning to provide a molecular understanding of its parts.
We are using this toolkit for the creation of useful nanoscale molecular devices and systems that can perform novel mechanical tasks, convert energy from one form to another, or catalyse novel chemical reactions. These functions may arise from the directed evolution of particular modules to perform new functions or from the assembly of novel combinations of modules to produce molecules and even organisms with novel and potentially emergent properties.
- Neumann, H., Peak-Chew, S.Y. and Chin, J.W. (2008)
Genetically encoding N(epsilon)-acetyllysine in recombinant proteins.
Nature Chem Biol 4: 232-4.
- Wang, K., Neumann, H., Peak-Chew, S.Y. and Chin, J.W. (2007)
Evolved orthogonal ribosomes enhance the efficiency of synthetic genetic code expansion.
Nature Biotech 25: 770-7.
- Chin, J.W. (2006)
Modular approaches to expanding the functions of living matter.
Nature Chem Biol 2: 304-11.