Restriction enzyme-free construction of random gene mutagenesis libraries in Escherichia coli

Anal Biochem. 2012 Feb 15;421(2):640-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Nov 18.


Directed evolution relies on both random and site-directed mutagenesis of individual genes and regulatory elements to create variants with altered activity profiles for engineering applications. Central to these experiments is the construction of large libraries of related variants. However, a number of technical hurdles continue to limit routine construction of random mutagenesis libraries in Escherichia coli, in particular, inefficiencies during digestion and ligation steps. Here, we report a restriction enzyme-free approach to library generation using megaprimers termed MegAnneal. Target DNA is first exponentially amplified using error-prone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and then linearly amplified with a single 3' primer to generate long, randomly mutated, single-stranded megaprimers. These are annealed to single-stranded dUTP-containing template plasmid and extended with T7 polymerase to create a complementary strand, and the resulting termini are ligated with T4 DNA ligase. Using this approach, we are able to reliably generate libraries of approximately 10⁷ colony-forming units (cfu)/μg DNA/transformation in a single day. We have created MegAnneal libraries based on three different single-chain antibodies and identified variants with enhanced expression and ligand-binding affinity. The key advantages of this approach include facile amplification, restriction enzyme-free library generation, and a significantly reduced risk of mutations outside the targeted region and wild-type contamination as compared with current methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / chemistry
  • Directed Molecular Evolution*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Gene Library*
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • Single-Chain Antibodies
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes