- BS in Chemistry. Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru (2000)
- License Diploma in Chemistry. Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru (2001)
- MS in Polymer Science and Engineering. University of Massachusetts Amherst (2003)
- PhD in Chemistry. University of Florida (2015)
My research is focused on the in vitro evolution of DNA polymerases. My goal is to produce DNA polymerases able to efficiently incorporate non-standard nucleic acids (AEGIS), which are designed and synthesized by my colleagues at the FFAME.
The compartmentalized self-replication (CSR) method allows us to isolate different phenotypes of polymerases in microdroplets that contain, on average, one gene per microdroplet. This system resembles natural selection, as the genes and the molecules they encode are separated from each other in compartments (cells). Our in vitro selection experiments allow us to select among 2x108 different genes in a volume of less than 1 mL.
- Coca Cola Eco-efficiency Award (First Place, 2003)
Alternative Watson-Crick Synthetic
Steven A. Benner, Nilesh B. Karalkar, Shuichi Hoshika, Roberto Laos, Ryan W. Shaw, Mariko Matsuura, Diego Fajardo, and Patricia Moussatche
Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol
, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (2016) doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a023770
In its "grand challenge" format in chemistry, "synthesis" as an activity sets out a goal that is
substantially beyond current theoretical and technological capabilities. In pursuit of this
goal, scientists are forced across uncharted territory, where they must answer unscripted
questions and solve unscripted problems, creating new theories and new technologies in
ways that would not be created by hypothesis-directed research. Thus, synthesis drives discovery
and paradigm changes in ways that analysis cannot. Described here are the products
that have arisen so far through the pursuit of one grand challenge in synthetic biology:
Recreate the genetics, catalysis, evolution, and adaptation that we value in life, but using
genetic and catalytic biopolymers different from those that have been delivered to us by
natural history on Earth. The outcomes in technology include new diagnostic tools that have
helped personalize the care of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. In science, the
effort has generated a fundamentally different view of DNA, RNA, and how they work.
engineered by directed evolution to incorporate non-standard nucleotides.
Frontiers in Microbiology
Laos, R., Thomson, J. M., & Benner, S. A.
Frontiers in Microbiology
(2014) 5, 565. http://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00565
DNA polymerases have evolved for billions of years to accept natural nucleoside triphosphate substrates with high fidelity and to exclude closely related structures, such as the analogous ribonucleoside triphosphates. However, polymerases that can accept unnatural nucleoside triphosphates are desired for many applications in biotechnology. The focus of this review is on non-standard nucleotides that expand the genetic "alphabet." This review focuses on experiments that, by directed evolution, have created variants of DNA polymerases that are better able to accept unnatural nucleotides. In many cases, an analysis of past evolution of these polymerases (as inferred by examining multiple sequence alignments) can help explain some of the mutations delivered by directed evolution.
Directed Evolution of Polymerases To Accept Nucleotides with Nonstandard Hydrogen Bond Patterns
Laos R, Shaw R, Leal NA, Gaucher E, Benner S.
(2013) 52, 5288-5294
Artificial genetic systems have been developed
by synthetic biologists over the past two decades to include
additional nucleotides that form additional nucleobase pairs
independent of the standard T:A and C:G pairs. Their use in
various tools to detect and analyze DNA and RNA requires
polymerases that synthesize duplex DNA containing unnatural
base pairs. This is especially true for nested polymerase chain
reaction (PCR), which has been shown to dramatically lower noise in multiplexed nested PCR if nonstandard nucleotides are
used in their external primers. We report here the results of a directed evolution experiment seeking variants of Taq DNA
polymerase that can support the nested PCR amplification with external primers containing two particular nonstandard
nucleotides, 2-amino-8-(1'-B-D-2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)imidazo[1,2-a]-1,3,5-triazin-4(8H)-one (trivially called P) that pairs with
6-amino-5-nitro-3-(1'-B-D-2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)-2(1H)-pyridone (trivially called Z). Variants emerging from the directed
evolution experiments were shown to pause less when challenged in vitro to incorporate dZTP opposite P in a template.
Interestingly, several sites involved in the adaptation of Taq polymerases in the laboratory were also found to have displayed
"heterotachy" (different rates of change) in their natural history, suggesting that these sites were involved in an adaptive change
in natural polymerase evolution. Also remarkably, the polymerases evolved to be less able to incorporate dPTP opposite Z in the
template, something that was not selected. In addition to being useful in certain assay architectures, this result underscores the
general rule in directed evolution that "you get what you select for".
Engineered DNA Polymerases
K. Murakami and M.A. Trakselis (eds.)
Nucleic Acid Polymerases, Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology
, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (2013)
Solution H-1 NMR confirmation of folding in short o-phenylene ethynylene oligomers
Jones, TV; Slutsky, MM; Laos, R; de Greef, TFA; Tew, GN
J. Am. Chem. Soc.
127 (49) 17235-17240 (2005)
Oligomers based on an o-phenylene ethynylene (oPE) backbone with polar substituents have been synthesized using Sonogashira methods. Folding of these extremely short oligomers was confirmed via 1D and 2D (NOESY) NMR methods. Utilizing electron-rich and electron-poor phenylene building blocks, variations of these oPE oligomers have been synthesized to determine the folded stability of pi-rich vs pi-poor vs pi-rich pi-poor systems. Slight variations in temperature offer a route, aside from solvent denaturation, to probe the stability of the folded structure. This is the first report of an NMR solution characterization of folding for a PE backbone without hydrogen bonds.
(View publication page for Roberto Laos)