Detection of a Peptide Biomarker by Engineered Yeast Receptors

Adebola Adeniran, Sarah Stainbrook, John W. Bostick, Keith E.J. Tyo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Directed evolution of membrane receptors is challenging as the evolved receptor must not only accommodate a non-native ligand, but also maintain the ability to transduce the detection of the new ligand to any associated intracellular components. The G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily is the largest group of membrane receptors. As members of the GPCR family detect a wide range of ligands, GPCRs are an incredibly useful starting point for directed evolution of user-defined analytical tools and diagnostics. The aim of this study was to determine if directed evolution of the yeast Ste2p GPCR, which natively detects the α-factor peptide, could yield a GPCR that detects Cystatin C, a human peptide biomarker. We demonstrate a generalizable approach for evolving Ste2p to detect peptide sequences. Because the target peptide differs significantly from α-factor, a single evolutionary step was infeasible. We turned to a substrate walking approach and evolved receptors for a series of chimeric intermediates with increasing similarity to the biomarker. We validate our previous model as a tool for designing optimal chimeric peptide steps. Finally, we demonstrate the clinical utility of yeast-based biosensors by showing specific activation by a C-terminally amidated Cystatin C peptide in commercially sourced human urine. To our knowledge, this is the first directed evolution of a peptide GPCR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-705
Number of pages10
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 16 2018


  • G-protein coupled receptors
  • diagnostics
  • directed evolution
  • receptor engineering
  • substrate walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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