Popular Science Presentation

Proteins are the main active and structural molecules of life. They are synthesized from 20 different amino acids by a machine called the ribosome in a complicated process that is central to growth and indeed all of biology. Protein synthesis in bacteria is the major target of antibiotics, and antibiotic discovery has again become a major health research priority because of mounting antibiotic resistance. Protein synthesis is also fundamental to biomedical research and biotechnology (e.g. for synthesis of enzyme, hormone and antibody proteins). Applications can be expanded through use of synthetic biology, cell-free protein synthesis and incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins. Improved knowledge of protein synthesis should be important for making protein mutants, for protein structural studies and for drug discovery by directed evolution of short proteins containing unnatural amino acids (peptidomimetics). Unnatural amino acids are common and desirable components of drugs because they resist rapid degradation by the body and enable transport to the inside of cells, thereby increasing the activity of the drug and the accessible range of drug targets.

Our front cover image shows an unnatural amino acid substrate (multicoloured at bottom left), the ribosome machine (middle), and one of the ribosome's protein products (multicoloured at right) bound to a transfer RNA (orange). Image designed by Jinfan Wang and Jiekun Zhang.Bildtext