The Seelig Lab
Evolving New Enzymes
Our research focuses on implementing Darwinian evolution in a test tube to generate novel proteins with custom-made properties. We are interested in applying methods of in vitro selection and evolution to the generation of de novo enzymes as well as to tailoring existing enzymes to a wide variety of useful properties. We have established a general method to generate novel protein enzymes from scratch – enzymes that have not been found in nature. Our method employs the mRNA display technology, which generates libraries of proteins that are covalently linked to their coding mRNA. This stable connection between genotype and phenotype allows for the selection of proteins from large libraries with complexities well beyond the limits of conventional screening technologies. This method enables us to search for new enzymes in libraries of trillions of protein variants in a single experiment.
One objective of our research is to create enzymes as ‘designer catalysts’ because there is considerable interest in harnessing the power of enzymes for the synthesis of chemicals and pharmaceuticals and for the conversion of biomass. We are also studying our new enzymes in detail and evolve them further to help elucidate basic principles of biocatalysis and protein evolution.
The research carried out in our lab combines a number of different disciplines, including molecular biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and protein engineering.