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1.  TrimerDimer: an oligonucleotide-based saturation mutagenesis approach that removes redundant and stop codons 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(18):e125.
9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (Fmoc) and 4,4′-dimethoxytrityl (DMTr) are orthogonal hydroxyl protecting groups that have been used in conjunction to assemble oligonucleotide libraries whose variants contain wild-type and mutant codons randomly interspersed throughout a focused DNA region. Fmoc is labile to organic bases and stable to weak acids, whereas DMTr behaves oppositely. Based on these chemical characteristics, we have now devised TrimerDimer, a novel codon-based saturation mutagenesis approach that removes redundant and stop codons during the assembly of degenerate oligonucleotides. In this approach, five DMTr-protected trinucleotide phosphoramidites (dTGG, dATG, dTTT, dTAT and dTGC) and five Fmoc-protected dinucleotide phosphoramidites (dAA, dTT, dAT, dGC and dCG) react simultaneously with a starting oligonucleotide growing on a solid support. The Fmoc group is then removed and the incorporated dimers react with a mixture of three DMTr-protected monomer phosphoramidites (dC, dA and dG) to produce 15 trinucleotides: dCAA, dAAA, dGAA, dCTT, dATT, dGTT, dCAT, dAAT, dGAT, dCGC, dAGC, dGGC, dCCG, dACG and dGCG. After one mutagenic cycle, 20 codons are generated encoding the 20 natural amino acids. TrimerDimer was tested by randomizing the four contiguous codons that encode amino acids L64–G67 of an engineered, nonfluorescent GFP protein. Sequencing of 89 nonfluorescent mutant clones and isolation of two fluorescent mutants confirmed the principle.
PMCID: PMC2764442  PMID: 19783828
2.  The effect of amino acid deletions and substitutions in the longest loop of GFP 
The effect of single and multiple amino acid substitutions in the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from Aequorea victoria has been extensively explored, yielding several proteins of diverse spectral properties. However, the role of amino acid deletions in this protein -as with most proteins- is still unknown, due to the technical difficulties involved in generating combinatorial in-phase amino acid deletions on a target region.
In this study, the region I129-L142 of superglo GFP (sgGFP), corresponding to the longest loop of the protein and located far away from the central chromophore, was subjected to a random amino acid deletion approach, employing an in-house recently developed mutagenesis method termed Codon-Based Random Deletion (COBARDE). Only two mutants out of 16384 possible variant proteins retained fluorescence: sgGFP-Δ I129 and sgGFP-Δ D130. Interestingly, both mutants were thermosensitive and at 30°C sgGFP-Δ D130 was more fluorescent than the parent protein. In contrast with deletions, substitutions of single amino acids from residues F131 to L142 were well tolerated. The substitution analysis revealed a particular importance of residues F131, G135, I137, L138, H140 and L142 for the stability of the protein.
The behavior of GFP variants with both amino acid deletions and substitutions demonstrate that this loop is playing an important structural role in GFP folding. Some of the amino acids which tolerated any substitution but no deletion are simply acting as "spacers" to localize important residues in the protein structure.
PMCID: PMC1919350  PMID: 17594481
3.  Combinatorial codon-based amino acid substitutions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(20):e158.
Twenty Fmoc-protected trinucleotide phosphoramidites representing a complete set of codons for the natural amino acids were chemically synthesized for the first time. A pool of these reagents was incorporated into oligonucleotides at substoichiometric levels to generate two libraries of variants that randomly carry either few or many codon replacements on a region encoding nine amino acids of the bacterial enzyme TEM-1 β-lactamase. Assembly of the libraries was performed in a completely automated mode through a simple modification of ordinary protocols. This technology eliminates codon redundancy, stop codons and enables complete exploration of sequence space for single, double and triple mutations throughout a protein region spanning several residues. Sequence analysis of many non-selected clones revealed a good incorporation of the trinucleotides, producing combinations of mutations quite different from those obtained using conventional degenerate oligonucleotides. Ceftazidime-selection experiments yielded several never before reported variants containing novel amino acid combinations in the β-lactamase omega loop region.
PMCID: PMC534637  PMID: 15537836
4.  Protein evolution by codon-based random deletions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(17):e136.
A method to delete in-phase codons throughout a defined target region of a gene has been developed. This approach, named the codon-based random deletion (COBARDE) method, is able to delete complete codons in a random and combinatorial mode. Robustness, automation and fine-tuning of the mutagenesis rate are essential characteristics of the method, which is based on the assembly of oligonucleotides and on the use of two transient orthogonal protecting groups during the chemical synthesis. The performance of the method for protein function evolution was demonstrated by changing the substrate specificity of TEM-1 β-lactamase. Functional ceftazidime-resistant β-lactamase variants containing several deleted residues inside the catalytically important omega-loop region were found. The results show that the COBARDE method is a useful new molecular tool to access previously unexplorable sequence space.
PMCID: PMC521680  PMID: 15459282
5.  Novel ceftazidime-resistance β-lactamases generated by a codon-based mutagenesis method and selection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(16):e84.
Four known and nine new ceftazidime-resistance β-lactamases were generated by a novel, contaminating codon-based mutagenesis approach. In this method, wild-type codons are spiked with a set of mutant codons during oligonucleotide synthesis, generating random combinatorial libraries of primers that contain few codon replacements per variant. Mutant codons are assembled by tandem addition of a diluted mixture of five Fmoc-dimer amidites to the growing oligo and a mixture of four DMTr-monomer amidites to generate 20 trinucleotides that encode a set of 18 amino acids. Wild-type codons are assembled with conventional chemistry and the whole process takes place in only one synthesis column, making its automation feasible. The random and binomial behavior of this approach was tested in the polylinker region of plasmid pUC19 by the synthesis of three oligonucleotide libraries mutagenized at different rates and cloned as mutagenic cassettes. Additionally, the method was biologically assessed by mutating six contiguous codons that encode amino acids 237–243 (ABL numbering) of the TEMpUC19 β-lactamase, which is functionally equivalent to the clinically important TEM-1 β-lactamase. The best ceftazidime-recognizing variant was a triple mutant, R164H:E240K: R241A, displaying a 333-fold higher resistance than the wild-type enzyme.
PMCID: PMC134257  PMID: 12177312
6.  Orthogonal combinatorial mutagenesis: a codon-level combinatorial mutagenesis method useful for low multiplicity and amino acid-scanning protocols 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(3):e9.
We describe here a method to generate combinatorial libraries of oligonucleotides mutated at the codon-level, with control of the mutagenesis rate so as to create predictable binomial distributions of mutants. The method allows enrichment of the libraries with single, double or larger multiplicity of amino acid replacements by appropriate choice of the mutagenesis rate, depending on the concentration of synthetic precursors. The method makes use of two sets of deoxynucleoside-phosphoramidites bearing orthogonal protecting groups [4,4′-dimethoxytrityl (DMT) and 9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (Fmoc)] in the 5′ hydroxyl. These phosphoramidites are divergently combined during automated synthesis in such a way that wild-type codons are assembled with commercial DMT-deoxynucleoside-methyl-phosphoramidites while mutant codons are assembled with Fmoc-deoxynucleoside-methyl-phosphoramidites in an NNG/C fashion in a single synthesis column. This method is easily automated and suitable for low mutagenesis rates and large windows, such as those required for directed evolution and alanine scanning. Through the assembly of three oligonucleotide libraries at different mutagenesis rates, followed by cloning at the polylinker region of plasmid pUC18 and sequencing of 129 clones, we concluded that the method performs essentially as intended.
PMCID: PMC30410  PMID: 11160911

Results 1-6 (6)