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Ribosome display: selecting and evolving proteins in vitro that specifically bind to a target

Nature Methods volume 4, pages 269279 (2007) | Download Citation



Ribosome display is an in vitro selection and evolution technology for proteins and peptides from large libraries1. As it is performed entirely in vitro, there are two main advantages over other selection technologies2,3. First, the diversity of the library is not limited by the transformation efficiency of bacterial cells, but only by the number of ribosomes and different mRNA molecules present in the test tube. Second, random mutations can be introduced easily after each selection round, as no library must be transformed after any diversification step. This allows facile directed evolution of binding proteins over several generations (Box 1). A prerequisite for the selection of proteins from libraries is the coupling of genotype (RNA, DNA) and phenotype (protein). In ribosome display, this link is accomplished during in vitro translation by stabilizing the complex consisting of the ribosome, the mRNA and the nascent, correctly folded polypeptide (Fig. 1). The DNA library coding for a particular library of binding proteins is genetically fused to a spacer sequence lacking a stop codon. This spacer sequence, when translated, is still attached to the peptidyl tRNA and occupies the ribosomal tunnel, and thus allows the protein of interest to protrude out of the ribosome and fold. The ribosomal complexes are allowed to bind to surface-immobilized target. Whereas non-bound complexes are washed away, mRNA of the complexes displaying a binding polypeptide can be recovered, and thus, the genetic information of the binding polypeptides is available for analysis. Here we describe a step-by-step procedure to perform ribosome display selection using an Escherichia coli S30 extract for in vitro translation, based on the work originally described and further refined in our laboratory1. A protocol that makes use of eukaryotic in vitro translation systems for ribosome display4,6,7 is also included in this issue8.

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We thank R. Skirgaila for originally suggesting and testing Phusion polymerase in ribosome display, as well as A. Batyuk, D. Ferrari, T. Huber, P. Martin Killias, P. Parizek, N. Sainz-Pastor and S.R. Wyss-Stoeckle for experimentally checking the protocol in detail and for many helpful suggestions and discussions, as well as former members of the Plückthun laboratory for establishing the protocol.

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  1. Biochemisches Institut der Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.

    • Christian Zahnd
    • , Patrick Amstutz
    •  & Andreas Plückthun
  2. Molecular Partners AG, c/o Biochemisches Institut der Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.

    • Christian Zahnd
    •  & Patrick Amstutz


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Competing interests

A.P. is an inventor on a patent on ribosome display. Molecular Partners AG is using ribosome display commercially.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas Plückthun.

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