Directed evolution of specific receptor-ligand pairs for use in the creation of gene switches

Karuppiah Chockalingam, Huimin Zhao

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Despite their versatility and power in controlling gene regulation in nature, nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) have largely eluded utility in heterologous gene regulation applications such as gene therapy and metabolic engineering. The main reason for this void is the pleiotropic interference of the receptor-ligand combination with regulatory networks in the host organism. In recent years, numerous strategies have been developed to engineer ligand-receptor pairs that do not cross-interact with host regulatory pathways. However, these strategies have either met with limited success or cannot be readily extended to other ligand-receptor pairs. Here, we present a systematic approach for reengineering NHRs to respond specifically to a selected synthetic ligand. The method involves generation of genetic diversity by stepwise individual site saturation mutagenesis of a fixed set of ligand-contacting residues and random point mutagenesis, followed by phenotypic screening based on a yeast two-hybrid system. As a test case, this method was used to alter the specificity of the NHR human estrogen receptor a in favor of the synthetic ligand 4,4'-dihydroxybenzil, relative to the natural ligand 17β-estradiol, by >107-fold. The resulting ligand-receptor pair is highly sensitive to the synthetic ligand in human endometrial cancer cells and is essentially fully orthogonal to the wild-type receptor-natural ligand pair. This method should provide a powerful, broadly applicable tool for engineering receptors/enzymes with improved or novel ligand/substrate specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication05AIChE
Subtitle of host publication2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase, Conference Proceedings
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes
Event05AIChE: 2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase - Cincinnati, OH, United States
Duration: Oct 30 2005Nov 4 2005


Other05AIChE: 2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCincinnati, OH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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