Primordial sequence signatures in modern proteins imply ancestral origins tracing back to simple peptides. Although short peptides seldom adopt unique folds, metal ions might have templated their assembly into higher-order structures in early evolution and imparted useful chemical reactivity. Recapitulating such a biogenetic scenario, we have combined design and laboratory evolution to transform a zinc-binding peptide into a globular enzyme capable of accelerating ester cleavage with exacting enantiospecificity and high catalytic efficiency ( k cat / K M ~ 10 6 M –1 s –1 ). The simultaneous optimization of structure and function in a naïve peptide scaffold not only illustrates a plausible enzyme evolutionary pathway from the distant past to the present but also proffers exciting future opportunities for enzyme design and engineering.
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Natural Sciences in General