Enzymes that catalyze peptide ligation are powerful tools for site-specific protein bioconjugation and the study of cellular signaling. Peptide ligases can be divided into two classes: proteases that have been engineered to favor peptide ligation, and protease-related enzymes with naturally evolved peptide ligation activity. Here, we provide a review of key natural peptide ligases and proteases engineered to favor peptide ligation activity. We cover the protein engineering approaches used to generate and improve these tools, along with recent biological applications, advantages, and limitations associated with each enzyme. Finally, we address future challenges and opportunities for further development of peptide ligases as tools for biological research.

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