An automated flow for directed evolution based on detection of promiscuous scaffolds using spatial and electrostatic properties of catalytic residues.

PloS one

PubMedID: 22811760

Chakraborty S. An automated flow for directed evolution based on detection of promiscuous scaffolds using spatial and electrostatic properties of catalytic residues. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(7):e40408.
The aspiration to mimic and accelerate natural evolution has fueled interest in directed evolution experiments, which endow or enhance functionality in enzymes. Barring a few de novo approaches, most methods take a template protein having the desired activity, known active site residues and structure, and proceed to select a target protein which has a pre-existing scaffold congruent to the template motif. Previously, we have established a computational method (CLASP) based on spatial and electrostatic properties to detect active sites, and a method to quantify promiscuity in proteins. We exploit the prospect of promiscuous active sites to serve as the starting point for directed evolution and present a method to select a target protein which possesses a significant partial match with the template scaffold (DECAAF). A library of partial motifs, constructed from the active site residues of the template protein, is used to rank a set of target proteins based on maximal significant matches with the partial motifs, and cull out the best candidate from the reduced set as the target protein. Considering the scenario where this 'incubator' protein lacks activity, we identify mutations in the target protein that will mirror the template motif by superimposing the target and template protein based on the partial match. Using this superimposition technique, we analyzed the less than expected gain of activity achieved by an attempt to induce ß-lactamase activity in a penicillin binding protein (PBP) (PBP-A from T. elongatus), and attributed this to steric hindrance from neighboring residues. We also propose mutations in PBP-5 from E. coli, which does not have similar steric constraints. The flow details have been worked out in an example which aims to select a substitute protein for human neutrophil elastase, preferably related to grapevines, in a chimeric anti-microbial enzyme which bolsters the innate immune defense system of grapevines.