Evolution as a Guide to Designing xeno Amino Acid Alphabets

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar 10;22(6):2787. doi: 10.3390/ijms22062787.


Here, we summarize a line of remarkably simple, theoretical research to better understand the chemical logic by which life's standard alphabet of 20 genetically encoded amino acids evolved. The connection to the theme of this Special Issue, "Protein Structure Analysis and Prediction with Statistical Scoring Functions", emerges from the ways in which current bioinformatics currently lacks empirical science when it comes to xenoproteins composed largely or entirely of amino acids from beyond the standard genetic code. Our intent is to present new perspectives on existing data from two different frontiers in order to suggest fresh ways in which their findings complement one another. These frontiers are origins/astrobiology research into the emergence of the standard amino acid alphabet, and empirical xenoprotein synthesis.

Keywords: amino acid; chemistry space; ncAA; optimality; protein structure prediction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / genetics*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Code / genetics*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nucleotides / chemistry
  • Nucleotides / genetics
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / genetics*


  • Amino Acids
  • Nucleotides
  • Proteins
  • DNA