Removing the redundancy from randomised gene libraries

Marcus D. Hughes*, David A. Nagel, Albert F. Santos, Andrew J. Sutherland, Anna V. Hine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amino acid substitution plays a vital role in both the molecular engineering of proteins and analysis of structure-activity relationships. High-throughput substitution is achieved by codon randomisation, which generates a library of mutants (a randomised gene library) in a single experiment. For full randomisation, key codons are typically replaced with NNN (64 sequences) or NNG CorT (32 sequences). This obligates cloning of redundant codons alongside those required to encode the 20 amino acids. As the number of randomised codons increases, there is therefore a progressive loss of randomisation efficiency; the number of genes required per protein rises exponentially. The redundant codons cause amino acids to be represented unevenly; for example, methionine is encoded just once within NNN, whilst arginine is encoded six times. Finally, the organisation of the genetic code makes it impossible to encode functional subsets of amino acids (e.g. polar residues only) in a single experiment. Here, we present a novel solution to randomisation where genetic redundancy is eliminated; the number of different genes equals the number of encoded proteins, regardless of codon number. There is no inherent amino acid bias and any required subset of amino acids may be encoded in one experiment. This generic approach should be widely applicable in studies involving randomisation of proteins. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-979
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


  • codon
  • library
  • randomisation
  • zinc finger


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