Proteins—polymers of amino acids—are a major class of biomolecules whose myriad functions facilitate many crucial biological processes. Accordingly, human control over these biological processes depends upon the ability to study, produce, and modify proteins. One innovative tool for accomplishing these aims is cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS). This technique, rather than using living cells to make protein, simply extracts the cells' natural protein-making machinery and then uses it to produce protein in vitro. Because living cells are no longer involved, scientists can freely adapt the protein production environment in ways not otherwise possible. However, improved versatility and yield of CFPS protein production is still the subject of considerable research. This work focuses on two ideas for furthering that research.The first idea is the adaptation of CFPS to make proteins containing unnatural amino acids. Unnatural amino acids are not found in natural biological proteins; they are synthesized artificially to possess useful properties which are then conferred upon any protein made with them. However, current methods for incorporating unnatural amino acids do not allow incorporation of more than one type of unnatural amino acid into a single protein. This work helps lay the groundwork for the incorporation of different unnatural amino acid types into proteins. It does this by using modified aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs), which are key components in CFPS, to be compatible with unnatural amino acids. The second idea is the preservation of DNA templates from enzyme degradation in CFPS. Among the advantages of CFPS is the option of using linear expression templates (LETs) in place of plasmids as the DNA template for protein production. Because LETs can be produced more quickly than plasmids can, using LETs greatly reduces the time required to obtain a DNA template for protein production. This renders CFPS a better candidate for high-throughput testing of proteins. However, LETs are more susceptible to enzyme-mediated degradation than plasmids are, which means that LET-based CFPS protein yields are lower than plasmid-based CFPS yields. This work explores the possibility of increasing the protein yield of LET-based CFPS by addition of sacrificial DNA, DNA which is not used as a protein-making template but which is degraded by the enzymes in place of the LETs.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Chemical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Andrew Broadbent, cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS), unnatural amino acid incorporation, aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase, linear expression template (LET), aminoacylation assay, sacrificial DNA