Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 70, Issue 7, pp 1185–1206 | Cite as

Recent progress in intein research: from mechanism to directed evolution and applications

  • Gerrit Volkmann
  • Henning D. Mootz


Inteins catalyze a post-translational modification known as protein splicing, where the intein removes itself from a precursor protein and concomitantly ligates the flanking protein sequences with a peptide bond. Over the past two decades, inteins have risen from a peculiarity to a rich source of applications in biotechnology, biomedicine, and protein chemistry. In this review, we focus on developments of intein-related research spanning the last 5 years, including the three different splicing mechanisms and their molecular underpinnings, the directed evolution of inteins towards improved splicing in exogenous protein contexts, as well as novel applications of inteins for cell biology and protein engineering, which were made possible by a clearer understanding of the protein splicing mechanism.


Post-translational modification Protein chemistry Protein splicing  Enzyme mechanism  Protein engineering  Protein semisynthesis 



We apologize to those researchers whose work could not be covered in detail due to space limitations and the special focus of this work. We thank all coworkers, past and present, for their contributions to the group’s research. Funding in the Mootz lab was provided by the DFG (grant DFG MO 1073/3-1) and the HFSP (Grant RGP0031/2010).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BiochemistryUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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