22nd amino acid synthesized and added to genetic code of e. coli bacteria

gy," explained Joe Krzycki, a professor of microbiology.

"Now it looks like nature has been doing the same kinds of experiments all along and has produced a never-before-seen translator protein for pyrrolysine."

Following their joint discovery of L-pyrrolysine, Krzycki's colleague Michael Chan, an associate professor of biochemistry and chemistry at Ohio State, began the laborious process of synthesizing the actual chemical compound. After nearly a year's worth of work and a 10-step process, Chan's research group provided Kyzycki's group with a small amount of this chemically synthesized pyrrolysine.

"The sample that Michael's team produced was exactly what the chemical structure that we'd predicted said it should be," Krzycki said.

The final step was to see if the translator enzyme for L-pyrrolysine would function normally within a living cell. To test that, they inserted the enzyme into Escherichia coli bacteria. Researchers use E. coli as an easy test for some basic biological functions.

Once inside the microbe, the enzyme was able to change the genetic coding in the organism so that it now included L-pyrrolysine as well as the other 21 amino acids.

"What this set of experiments has shown us is that it is probably a little easier than we might have thought it would be to change the genetic code in an organism like E. coli," Krzycki said. "It gives us some new insight into how the genetic code evolved, that's the take-home message."

Chan called the project itself "a great example of how researchers in chemistry and biology can come together to solve some important fundamental scientific questions."

Future research may suggest new ways to make artificial proteins with unusual chemical properties for use in medicine or industry, Krzycki said.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundati

Contact: Joseph A. Krzycki
Ohio State University

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