Chemical synthesis of proteins

Published on April 30, 2024   41 min

A selection of talks on Biochemistry

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Dear listeners, my name is Lei Liu. I come from Tsinghua University in Beijing. Today I'm glad to share with you the Chemical Synthesis of Proteins.
First, we need to emphasize that proteins are large organic molecules that connect chemistry to life. Proteins are important for understanding how life works at the molecular level. Proteins are also increasingly being developed as drugs. In addition, proteins are receiving increasing attention in the development of advanced materials.
Proteins are usually produced by genetic recombination techniques. However, there are many proteins that cannot be obtained biologically. This includes proteins with complex post-translational modifications, proteins with unnatural functional motifs, and proteins composed entirely of mirror-image D-amino acids.
Our central question is how to generate proteins that are not biologically available. The way to achieve this goal is chemistry. In retrosynthetic thinking, we can achieve our goal through a divide-and-conquer strategy. First, we need to produce the building blocks of our targeted proteins which we call protein segments, by total chemical synthesis or recombinant expression. Then, we need to assemble these protein segments through chemical transformations to produce correctly folded targeted proteins.
Going back to the origins of chemical protein synthesis, at the beginning of the 20th century, Emil Fischer and his contemporary chemists came up with the idea of making enzymes through synthetic chemistry. At that time, synthesizing even a small peptide was a significant challenge.