at Peking University School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
​​​​the dong research group
30. Enhancing luciferase activity and stability through generative modeling of natural enzyme sequences
PNAS 120, e2312848120 (2023).
Wenjun Xie,Dangliang Liu, Xiaoya Wang, Aoxuan Zhang, Qijia Wei, Ashim Nandi, Suwei Dong, and and Arieh Warshel


The availability of natural protein sequences synergized with generative AI provides new paradigms to engineer enzymes. Although active enzyme variants with numerous mutations have been designed using generative models, their performance often falls short of their wild type counterparts. Additionally, in practical applications, choosing fewer mutations that can rival the efficacy of extensive sequence alterations is usually more advantageous. Pinpointing beneficial single mutations continues to be a formidable task. In this study, using the generative maximum entropy model to analyze Renilla luciferase (RLuc) homologs, and in conjunction with biochemistry experiments, we demonstrated that natural evolutionary information could be used to predictively improve enzyme activity and stability by engineering the active center and protein scaffold, respectively. The success rate to improve either luciferase activity or stability of designed single mutants is ~50%. This finding highlights nature's ingenious approach to evolving proficient enzymes, wherein diverse evolutionary pressures are preferentially applied to distinct regions of the enzyme, ultimately culminating in an overall high performance. We also reveal an evolutionary preference in RLuc toward emitting blue light that holds advantages in terms of water penetration compared to other light spectra. Taken together, our approach facilitates navigation through enzyme sequence space and offers effective strategies for computer-aided rational enzyme engineering.

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