Protein and Genome Evolution in Mammalian Cells for Biotechnology Applications

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Mutation and selection are the essential steps of evolution. Researchers have long used in vitro mutagenesis, expression, and selection techniques in laboratory bacteria and yeast cultures to evolve proteins with new properties, termed directed evolution. Unfortunately, the nature of mammalian cells makes applying these mutagenesis and whole-organism evolution techniques to mammalian protein expression systems laborious and time consuming. Mammalian evolution systems would be useful to test unique mammalian cell proteins and protein characteristics, such as complex glycosylation. Protein evolution in mammalian cells would allow for generation of novel diagnostic tools and designer polypeptides that can only be tested in a mammalian expression system. Recent advances have shown that mammalian cells of the immune system can be utilized to evolve transgenes during their natural mutagenesis processes, thus creating proteins with unique properties, such as fluorescence. On a more global level, researchers have shown that mutation systems that affect the entire genome of a mammalian cell can give rise to cells with unique phenotypes suitable for commercial processes. This review examines the advances in mammalian cell and protein evolution and the application of this work toward advances in commercial mammalian cell biotechnology.

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