Systematic molecular evolution enables robust biomolecule discovery


Jimmy Day

DeBenedictis, E.A., Chory, E.J., Gretton, D.W. et al. Systematic molecular evolution enables robust biomolecule discovery. Nat Methods (2021).


Evolution occurs when selective pressures from the environment shape inherited variation over time. Within the laboratory, evolution is commonly used to engineer proteins and RNA, but experimental constraints have limited the ability to reproducibly and reliably explore factors such as population diversity, the timing of environmental changes and chance on outcomes. We developed a robotic system termed phage- and robotics-assisted near-continuous evolution (PRANCE) to comprehensively explore biomolecular evolution by performing phage-assisted continuous evolution in high-throughput. PRANCE implements an automated feedback control system that adjusts the stringency of selection in response to real-time measurements of each molecular activity. In evolving three distinct types of biomolecule, we find that evolution is reproducibly altered by both random chance and the historical pattern of environmental changes. This work improves the reliability of protein engineering and enables the systematic analysis of the historical, environmental and random factors governing biomolecular evolution.

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