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An Expanded Code

Researchers have developed an expanded genetic code that allows the incorporation of non-canonical amino acids, Ars Technica writes. This, it adds, could be applied to not only label proteins being studied, but perhaps also help develop new therapeutics.

A Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology-led team of researchers developed a 68-codon, 24-amino-acid genetic code, as they report in Nature Chemistry. They automated the development of orthogonal mRNAs that are not read by wild-type ribosomes, but by a separate set of orthogonal ribosomes and enzymes. They optimized their approach so that it yielded a high level of protein — reaching levels like that of the wildtype system. As Ars Technica notes, the researchers generated three proteins via three mRNAs through this orthogonal approach, including a protein with four non-canonical amino acids.

"Our automated, rapid, and scalable method for O-mRNA design will greatly accelerate the design and directed evolution of orthogonal translation systems that incorporate multiple ncAAs and polymerize new monomers, and the creation and application of orthogonal gene expression systems," the researchers add in their paper.