Engineering molecular translation systems

Camila Kofman, Joongoo Lee, Michael C. Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Molecular translation systems provide a genetically encoded framework for protein synthesis, which is essential for all life. Engineering these systems to incorporate non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) into peptides and proteins has opened many exciting opportunities in chemical and synthetic biology. Here, we review recent advances that are transforming our ability to engineer molecular translation systems. In cell-based systems, new processes to synthesize recoded genomes, tether ribosomal subunits, and engineer orthogonality with high-throughput workflows have emerged. In cell-free systems, adoption of flexizyme technology and cell-free ribosome synthesis and evolution platforms are expanding the limits of chemistry at the ribosome's RNA-based active site. Looking forward, innovations will deepen understanding of molecular translation and provide a path to polymers with previously unimaginable structures and functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-607
Number of pages15
JournalCell Systems
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 16 2021


  • chemical biology
  • non-canonical amino acids
  • orthogonal translation systems
  • protein synthesis
  • synthetic biology
  • systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Histology


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