Dr. Livnat Afriat-Jurnou

Dr. Livnat Afriat-Jurnou
Principal Investigator
Research Group Leader
Directed Evolution of Enzymes
Research Interests:

We are interested in understanding how enzymes evolve new function and biochemical traits, and how are they adopted to their environment. We  implement this knowledge to use directed enzyme evolution to design new tailor-made enzymes with improved characteristics that can be used for health environmental and agricultural applications, projects in the lab include:

1. Study the correlations between Quorum Quenching lactonases biochemical properties (e.g., specificity and stability), their environmental origin, and the ability to modulate bacterial chemical communication.

2. Identify and design new lactonases as anti-microbial treatments against bacterial infections in human and plants.

3. Design and encapsulate pesticide hydrolyzing enzymes.

4. Directed enzyme evolution of plastic degrading enzyme  towards increased stability and activity with Polyethylene terephthalate, PET.

Enzymes are extremely potent biocatalysts capable of enhancing reaction rates by up to 1019-fold (kcat/knoncat).  Despite their great proficiency, enzymes exhibit a remarkable evolutionary adaptability (evolvability). The lab is interested in understanding how enzymes evolve new function, for this we use phylogenetic and structural analysis in combination with directed enzyme evolution. Understanding the structural mechanisms that govern this molecular evolution processes can help us in better engineering tailor made enzymes with new properties for specific environmental, agricultural and industrial applications.


Academic Education

2001-2004    B.Sc. degree, 2004, with honors.   Combined degree in Chemistry and Biology, the Faculty of Exact Sciences and the Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.              

2004-2006     M.Sc. degree, December 2006.   Thesis advisor: Prof. Dan Tawfik, the Department of Biological Chemistry, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.            

2006-2012    PhD. degree, May 2012. Thesis advisor: Prof. Dan Tawfik, the Department of Biological Chemistry, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

2012-2013   Postdoctoral research Fellow, The laboratory of Prof. Colin Jackson,  Research School of Chemistry. The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia 

Academic Employment

November 2013- April 2017- Research Associate, Migal – Galilee Research institute.       

July 2017- Principal Investigator, Migal – Galilee Research institute, Israel.

October 2016- Lecturer, Tel-Hai academic College, Israel

October 2019- Lecturer, academic senior staff, the faculty of Science and Technology, Tel-Hai academic College, Israel 


2015- Chemistry and Biotechnology, Sidney Warren Science Education Center for Youth, Tel Hai College.

2016- Organic Chemistry laboratory, undergraduate, Exact Sciences faculty, Tel Hai College.

2016- General Chemistry academic course in "Academia" program in Galiliom-Tel Hai College.

Since 2017- General Chemistry Laboratory course, undergraduate, Exact Sciences faculty, Tel Hai  College.

Since 2018- General Chemistry course, undergraduate, Exact Sciences faculty, Tel Hai College.

Since 2017- Scientific writing seminar,   undergraduate, Biotechnology, Exact Sciences faculty, Tel Hai  College.

Awards and Honors
Tel Aviv University, the Faculty of Life Science, Dean’s List, 2003.
Feinberg Graduate School of the Weizmann Institute of Science, PhD Scholarship, 2006-2011.

Scientific Publications

Predicting nitroimidazole antibiotic resistance mutations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis with protein engineering

M. Lee B.M, Almeida D.V., Afriat-Jurnou L, Aung H.L., Forde B.M., Hards K., Pidot S.J, Ahmed H.F., A., Mohamed E., Taylor M.C., West N.P, Stinear T.P., Greening C., Beatson S.A., Cook G.M., Nuermberger E.L., Jackson C.J.
Plos Pathogen

New homologues of Brassicaceae water?soluble chlorophyll proteins shed light on chlorophyll binding, spectral tuning and molecular evolution.

Prabahar, V., Jurnou, L. A., Paluy, I., Peleg, Y., & Noy, D.
Febs Journal 2019 Pages febs.15068

"Directed evolution of an endoinulinase from Talaromyces purpureogenus toward efficient production of inulooligosaccharides"

Afriat-Jurnou L, Cohen R, Paluy I, Ben-adiva R, Yadid I.
Biotechnology progress

The role of protein dynamics in the evolution of new enzyme function

Campbell E, Kaltenbach M, Correy GJ, Carr PD, Porebski BT, Livingstone EK, Afriat-Jurnou L, Buckle AM, Weik M, Hollfelder F, Tokuriki N, Jackson CJ
Nature Chemical Biology 2016

Sequence-Structure-Function Classification of a Catalytically Diverse Oxidoreductase Superfamily in Mycobacteria

Ahmed FH, Carr PD, Lee BM, Afriat-Jurnou L, Mohamed AE, Hong NS, Flanagan J, Taylor MC, Greening C, Jackson CJ
J Mol Biol. 2015 Volume 6;427(22):3554-71

Reconstructing a missing link in the evolution of a recently diverged phosphotriesterase by active-site loop remodeling

Afriat-Jurnou L; Jackson CJ; Tawfik DS.
Biochemistry 2012 Volume 51 Pages 6047-6055

Diminishing returns and tradeoffs constrain the laboratory optimization of an enzyme.” Nature communication

Tokuriki N, Jackson CJ, Jurnou-Afriat L, Tawfik DS
Nature communications

Conformational sampling, catalysis, and evolution of the bacterial phosphotriesterase.

Jackson CJ, Foo JL, Tokuriki N, Afriat L, Carr PD, Kim HK, Schenk G, Tawfik DS, Ollis DL.

The latent promiscuity of newly identified microbial lactonases is linked to recently diverged phosphotriesterase. Biochemistry.

Afriat L, Roodveldt C, Manco G, Tawfik DS