A team from several institutions throughout China has developed a novel system for rapid and extensively parallelizable evolution of biomolecules by introducing spatial dimensions. M13 phages and chemotactic Escherichia coli cells were closely inoculated onto a semisolid agar. The phages came into contact with the expanding front of the bacterial range, and then comigrated with the bacteria. This system leverages competition over space, wherein evolutionary progress is closely associated with the production of spatial patterns, allowing the emergence of improved or new protein functions. In a prototypical problem, SPACE remarkably simplified the process and evolved the promoter recognition of T7 RNA polymerase (RNAP) to a library of 96 random sequences in parallel.
SPACE – a new fast system for directed evolution