Cisbio eBook - 27

Trends in Protein-Protein Interactions Research | Life's Code Accepts New Characters

Madeline McCurry-Schmidt,

Conference focused on the redesign of multiscale
systems at the gene, network, and wholegenome levels. "It's an exciting time," commented
another presenter, Peter Carr, Ph.D., a senior
scientist at MIT's Synthetic Biology Center.

Adding X and Y
The alphabet of life has four letters: A for adenine,
C for cytosine, G for guanine, and T for thymine.
They are key to the code for 20 amino acids,
which link together to form the proteins essential
for life. It's been that way for millions of years,
maybe even longer.

Floyd E. Romesberg, Ph.D., (right) professor in the department of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, and Yorke
Zhang graduate student working in Dr. Romesberg's lab.

of natural amino acids, as well as "nonnatural"
amino acids.
Such efforts offer profound insight into how the
code of life works and what changes it can and
can't handle. Besides advancing scientific understanding, such efforts are giving developers the
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ability to tweak life's code on command.
According to Abhishek Chatterjee, Ph.D., a
professor of chemistry at Boston College, this
kind of code modification has a lot of potential.
He offered this observation as a presenter at
Biology by Design, a recent Gordon Research

Recently, researchers added two nonnatural
letters, dubbed X and Y. When researchers
introduced X and Y to the genetic alphabet of
Escherichia coli, they showed it was possible for
the nonnatural bases to code for a nonnatural
amino acid that was then incorporated into a
The feat demonstrated that information that
natural organisms lack, and for which they lack
coding capacity, can be accepted and used

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