Scientists have for the first time utilized machine learning to design whole new enzymes, which are proteins that quicken chemical reactions. In the realm of protein design, this is a crucial development since new enzymes can find several applications in both industrial manufacture and medicine.
Scientists have for the first time utilized machine learning to design whole new enzymes, which are proteins that quicken chemical reactions. In the realm of protein design, this is a crucial development since new enzymes can find several applications in both industrial manufacture and medicine.”
David Baker, Study Senior Author and Professor, Biochemistry, University of Washington School of Medicine
Using machine learning techniques, a team at the Center for Protein Design at UW Medicine created luciferases, which are light-emitting enzymes, as was revealed on February 22nd, 2023, in the journal Nature.
The new enzymes’ ability to identify certain substances and emit light effectively has been demonstrated in laboratory tests. In the Baker Lab, Andy Hsien-Wei Yeh and Christoffer Norn, two postdoctoral researchers, were in charge of this experiment.
The scientists first chose which chemicals, known as luciferins, they wanted the proteins to act upon to produce new luciferase enzymes. They then created tens of thousands of potential protein structures using software that could interact with those chemicals.
While testing in the lab, the researchers discovered an effective enzyme they named LuxSit (Let there be light). The desired chemical reaction was carried out by the enzyme. The performance of the enzyme was substantially enhanced.
An enhanced enzyme known as LuxSit-i produced enough light to be seen with the naked eye. The glowing sea pansy Renilla reniformis was found to have a natural luciferase enzyme, but this one was proven to be brighter.
We were able to design very efficient enzymes from scratch on the computer, as opposed to relying on enzymes found in nature. This breakthrough means that custom enzymes for almost any chemical reaction could, in principle, be designed.”
Andy Hsien-Wei Yeh, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Washington School of Medicine
Biotechnology, medicine, environmental remediation, and manufacturing could all benefit from new enzymes. Enzymes, for instance, can enhance the creation of pharmaceuticals, food processing, and biofuel. Enzymes can be used in medicine as both therapeutic and diagnostic substances.
By removing contaminants from the environment or sanitizing polluted areas, enzyme design can benefit the environment. Moreover, enzymes could help in the creation of new materials like biodegradable plastics and adhesives.
Hsien-Wei Yeh, A., et al. (2023). De novo design of luciferases using deep learning. Nature. doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05696-3