Enzyme from endangered bird linked to promising new therapies

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

September 19, 2022 -- Rice University researchers have discovered a rare enzyme that can be used to metabolically engineer cells to produce drugs, including thrombin inhibitors that break up blood clots. A bioinformatic survey found the key in the endangered crested ibis, a large white-plumaged wading bird.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and others, was published September 16 in the journal Nature Communications.

The crested ibis is the only species known to naturally produce an enzyme, sulfotransferase 1C1, that works within living cells to generate the noncanonical amino acid sulfotyrosine (sTyr), a mutant of the standard amino acid tyrosine. The discovery, made through computational comparison of genome databases at Rice's Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, underscores the importance of preserving endangered species.

Mimicking the ibis' ability to synthesize sTyr and incorporate it into proteins requires modifying a cell's DNA with a mutant codon called amber stop codon that in turn makes the sulfotransferase enzyme found in the bird. This catalyzes the generation of sTyr, a key building block in programing living cells to express therapeutic proteins -- including anticoagulant thrombin inhibitors.

Having the cells do the work of making a noncanonical amino acid is far more efficient than synthesizing it, Han Xiao, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry and biosciences at Rice, said in a statement. "But then we have to have the translational machinery to recognize it. And a special codon to encode this new building block. With this study, we've fulfilled all three of these requirements."

"We got lucky," Xiao said. "Ibis is the only species doing this."

NLM awards Rice $4.16M grant for training in biomedical informatics, data science
The National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a $4.16 million grant to the Rice University NLM Training...
Researchers determine new classification system for DNA architecture across life
A novel classification system for cell nuclei has been proposed in a new study investigating genome folding across the entire tree of life. In the paper,...
Flagship Pioneering unveils eRNA platform from Laronde
Flagship Pioneering unveiled its Laronde platform for the development of endless RNA (eRNA), a novel, engineered form of RNA that can be programmed to...
Scientists achieve milestone in animal-free production of biologics
For the first time, scientists have successfully produced sugar-based biologic molecules utilizing bacteria, without the need for animal products. The...

Copyright © 2022 scienceboard.net


Conferences
BioProcess International (BPI) Conference
September 27-30
Boston, Massachusetts United States
Laboratory Products Association Annual Meeting
October 1-4
Scottsdale, Arizona United States
Cell & Gene Meeting on the Mesa
October 11-13
Carlsbad, California United States
IDWeek 2022
October 19-23
District of Columbia United States
Connect
Science Advisory Board on LinkedIn
Science Advisory Board on Facebook
Science Advisory Board on Twitter