Welcome to our lab!
We are engaged in the expansion and rewriting of the genetic code, which defines the fundamental process of life that translates the genetic information in DNA to proteins. Proteins are working to make up the bodies of living things and to control the bodily processes within them at the molecular level. Naturally-occurring proteins consist of only 20 types of amino acids, as defined by the genetic code. By expanding the repertoire of amino acids, we aim at creating novel types of proteins that never existed in nature. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to reveal the molecular machinery that regulates the biosynthesis of proteins, how each of its components functions, and what modifications should be made to these components to increase the variety of genetically defined amino acids. We hope that the engineering of the genetic code would lead us to a deeper understanding of life.
We call the newly synthesized amino acids, which will be added to the existing list, "non-natural", and advocate the use of "alloprotein" to indicate proteins containing these novel structures. Non-natural amino acids have unique chemical natures or structures, such as heavy atoms, photo-reactive linkers, and fluorescent groups, which are not found in the 20 standard amino acids. We have incorporated these amino acids into proteins in E. coli and have also incorporated them into proteins in cultured mammalian cells, to reveal the crystal structures of proteins and to analyze the protein-protein interactions in living cells. To date, the expansion of the genetic code has facilitated protein science and molecular biology. Our publications are listed below.