Real enzymes and how they’ve changed my view of life

Patrick WM

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

When I was a PhD student, I was heavily influenced by enzymologists such as Knowles and Wolfenden, who emphasised the supreme catalytic power of enzymes. The goal of every wannabe protein engineer was to design or evolve a novel enzyme with kinetic parameters to rival triose phosphate isomerase or ornithine decarboxylase. This goal is certainly laudable, but after decades of increasingly sophisticated method development, few – if any – of us have ever achieved it. Will we ever? In this talk, I will describe our recent work to characterise non-model enzymes from non-model organisms. It turns out that enzymologists have been studying a rather biased subset. Most of the enzymes on Earth are slow and sloppy. Excitedly, that makes us all better protein engineers than we thought!