Discovery offers greener and more efficient peptide production


Scientists from the University of Manchester have uncovered a more efficient and sustainable way to make peptide-based medicines, showing promising effectiveness in combating cancers.

Peptides are used in many medicines, as well as in vaccines and nanomaterials. However, making peptides in the lab is currently a complicated process and produces a lot of harmful waste.

Manchester scientists have discovered a new family of ligase enzymes – a type of molecular glue that can help assemble short peptide sequences more simply and robustly, yielding significantly higher quantities of peptides compared to conventional methods.

The breakthrough could offer a more effective and environmentally friendly method of production.

Professor Jason Micklefield, who led the team, said: “Using our new ligase enzymes we can produce peptides with promising anti-cancer activity in a single process with excellent yields. Previously, these types of peptides were produced in much lower yields, by a very laborious 10-12 step chemical synthesis process. By combining different ligases together in a single cascade reaction, we can make many different peptides.”

Current methods of producing peptides incur high costs, and are difficult to scale up, resulting in limited and expensive supplies of peptide medicines.

The team in Manchester isolated and characterised new ligase enzymes involved in the biological processes that assemble natural peptides in simple bacteria. By analysing the sequences of the bacterial ligase enzymes, the team identified many other clusters of ligases likely involved in other peptide pathways.

Dr Guangcai Xu said: “The ligases we discovered provide a very clean and efficient way to produce peptides. By searching through available genome sequence data, we have found many types of related ligase enzymes. We are confident that using these ligases we will be able to assemble longer peptides for a range of other therapeutic applications.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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