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Potential for Applying Continuous Directed Evolution to Plant Enzymes: An Exploratory Study.

  • Author(s): García-García, Jorge D;
  • Joshi, Jaya;
  • Patterson, Jenelle A;
  • Trujillo-Rodriguez, Lidimarie;
  • Reisch, Christopher R;
  • Javanpour, Alex A;
  • Liu, Chang C;
  • Hanson, Andrew D
  • et al.

Plant evolution has produced enzymes that may not be optimal for maximizing yield and quality in today's agricultural environments and plant biotechnology applications. By improving enzyme performance, it should be possible to alleviate constraints on yield and quality currently imposed by kinetic properties or enzyme instability. Enzymes can be optimized more quickly than naturally possible by applying directed evolution, which entails mutating a target gene in vitro and screening or selecting the mutated gene products for the desired characteristics. Continuous directed evolution is a more efficient and scalable version that accomplishes the mutagenesis and selection steps simultaneously in vivo via error-prone replication of the target gene and coupling of the host cell's growth rate to the target gene's function. However, published continuous systems require custom plasmid assembly, and convenient multipurpose platforms are not available. We discuss two systems suitable for continuous directed evolution of enzymes, OrthoRep in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and EvolvR in Escherichia coli, and our pilot efforts to adapt each system for high-throughput plant enzyme engineering. To test our modified systems, we used the thiamin synthesis enzyme THI4, previously identified as a prime candidate for improvement. Our adapted OrthoRep system shows promise for efficient plant enzyme engineering.

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