Engineered ribosomes for basic science and synthetic biology

Anne E. D'Aquino, Do Soon Kim, Michael C. Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The ribosome is the cell's factory for protein synthesis. With protein synthesis rates of up to 20 amino acids per second and at an accuracy of 99.99%, the extraordinary catalytic capacity of the bacterial translation machinery has attracted extensive efforts to engineer, reconstruct, and repurpose it for biochemical studies and novel functions. Despite these efforts, the potential for harnessing the translation apparatus to manufacture bio-based products beyond natural limits remains underexploited, and fundamental constraints on the chemistry that the ribosome's RNA-based active site can carry out are unknown. This review aims to cover the past and present advances in ribosome design and engineering to understand the fundamental biology of the ribosome to facilitate the construction of synthetic manufacturing machines. The prospects for the development of engineered, or designer, ribosomes for novel polymer synthesis are reviewed, future challenges are considered, and promising advances in a variety of applications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-340
Number of pages30
JournalAnnual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
StatePublished - 2018


  • Cell-free
  • Engineering
  • Peptides
  • Ribosome
  • Tethered ribosome
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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