Protein and cellular engineering with unnatural amino acids

Biotechnol Prog. 2007 Jan-Feb;23(1):28-31. doi: 10.1021/bp060369d.


Proteins are the central functional constituents in all living organisms ranging from viruses, bacteria, yeast, and plants to mammals. All of these biopolymers that are formed by natural biosynthetic pathways are composed of a genetically determined sequence of the 20 so-called natural amino acids. The physical and chemical properties of proteins are a reflection of the side chains of each of the component amino acids. However, for some purposes it would be very desireable to have amino acids with side chains of various selected physical chemical properties, such as a keto group, a crosslinker, or a NMR probe group, incorporated into the protein. Although chemical and biochemical methods for modifying amino acid moieties in proteins have been achieved, recent successes in incorporating unnatural amino acids in vivo open entirely new avenues for determining protein functions in vivo and for the creation of unnatural proteins with novel functionalities. Several examples by employing the novel activity of unnatural amino acids have shown significant roles in both basic research and biotechnology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Proteins