Strand-displacing polymerases are a crucial component of isothermal amplification (IA) reactions, where the lack of thermal cycling reduces equipment needs and improves the time to answer, especially for point-of-care applications. In order to improve the function of strand-displacing polymerases, we have developed an emulsion-based directed evolution scheme, high-temperature isothermal compartmentalized self-replication (HTI-CSR) that does not rely on thermal cycling. Starting from an algorithm-optimized shuffled library of exonuclease-deficient Family A polymerases from Geobacillus stearothermophilus (Bst LF) and Thermus aquaticus (Klentaq), we have applied HTI-CSR to generate a more thermostable strand-displacing polymerase variant that performs well in loop-mediated isothermal amplification and rolling circle amplification, even after thermal challenges of up to 95 °C that lead to better primer annealing. The new enzyme (v5.9) is also capable of a variety of new reactions, including isothermal hyperbranched rolling circle amplification. The HTI-CSR method should now prove useful for evolving additional beneficial phenotypes in strand-displacing polymerases.
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