Volume 21, Issue 16 p. 2241-2249
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The Quest for Xenobiotic Enzymes: From New Enzymes for Chemistry to a Novel Chemistry of Life

Tobias Vornholt

Tobias Vornholt

Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering ETH Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

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Dr. Markus Jeschek

Corresponding Author

Dr. Markus Jeschek

Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering ETH Zürich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

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First published: 15 April 2020
Citations: 11

Graphical Abstract

Unlimited: Current research on artificial enzymes conclusively shows that we are not limited to nature's biocatalytic repertoire. Functional xenobiology, that is, the implementation of new-to-nature reactions in vivo, will open up a plethora of novel applications and has the potential for transformative biotechnological innovation. Herein, we highlight current challenges and future opportunities for xenobiotic reactions in living cells.

Abstract

Enzyme engineering has made impressive progress in the past decades, paving the way for the widespread use of enzymes for various purposes. In contrast to “classical” enzyme engineering, which focuses on optimizing specific properties of natural enzymes, a more recent trend towards the creation of artificial enzymes that catalyze fundamentally distinct, new-to-nature reactions is observable. While approaches for creating such enzymes differ significantly, they share the common goal of enabling biocatalytic novelty to broaden the range of applications for enzymes. Although most artificial enzymes reported to date are only moderately active and barely function in vivo, they have the potential to endow cells with capabilities that were previously out of reach and thus herald a new wave of “functional xenobiology”. Herein, we highlight recent developments in the field of artificial enzymes with a particular focus on challenges and opportunities for their use in xenobiology.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.