Biotechnology Letters

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 143-152

First online:

Cell-free protein synthesis: the state of the art

  • James W. WhittakerAffiliated withDivision of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, Institute for Environmental Health, Oregon Health and Science University Email author 

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Cell-free protein synthesis harnesses the synthetic power of biology, programming the ribosomal translational machinery of the cell to create macromolecular products. Like PCR, which uses cellular replication machinery to create a DNA amplifier, cell-free protein synthesis is emerging as a transformative technology with broad applications in protein engineering, biopharmaceutical development, and post-genomic research. By breaking free from the constraints of cell-based systems, it takes the next step towards synthetic biology. Recent advances in reconstituted cell-free protein synthesis (Protein synthesis Using Recombinant Elements expression systems) are creating new opportunities to tailor the reactions for specialized applications including in vitro protein evolution, printing protein microarrays, isotopic labeling, and incorporating nonnatural amino acids.


Cell-free translation Protein engineering Protein synthesis PURE expression Synthetic biology