Phage-assisted continuous and non-continuous evolution

Nat Protoc. 2020 Dec;15(12):4101-4127. doi: 10.1038/s41596-020-00410-3. Epub 2020 Nov 16.


Directed evolution, which applies the principles of Darwinian evolution to a laboratory setting, is a powerful strategy for generating biomolecules with diverse and tailored properties. This technique can be implemented in a highly efficient manner using continuous evolution, which enables the steps of directed evolution to proceed seamlessly over many successive generations with minimal researcher intervention. Phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE) enables continuous directed evolution in bacteria by mapping the steps of Darwinian evolution onto the bacteriophage life cycle and allows directed evolution to occur on much faster timescales compared to conventional methods. This protocol provides detailed instructions on evolving proteins using PACE and phage-assisted non-continuous evolution (PANCE) and includes information on the preparation of selection phage and host cells, the assembly of a continuous flow apparatus and the performance and analysis of evolution experiments. This protocol can be performed in as little as 2 weeks to complete more than 100 rounds of evolution (complete cycles of mutation, selection and replication) in a single PACE experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Directed Molecular Evolution / methods*